New plastic recycling program available for farmers

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Cooperative Extension has begun a new agricultural plastic recycling program. In this 2018 photo, Patty and John Cormier of Farmington stand in the hoop house they use to grow grapes for wine production. Plastics typically used to cover greenhouses, high tunnels, hoop houses and other agricultural structures can be recycled but plastics used for mulch or to cover livestock feed are not. File photo

MAINE — A new agricultural plastic recycling program is now available for farmers.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension began collection of greenhouse plastic for recycling Sept. 25, with 16 drop-off sites across the state. Disposal is free of charge through Dec. 15 to all Maine growers who register.

The target material for recycling is clear, low-density, polyethylene (LDPE#4) plastic typically used to cover greenhouses, high tunnels, hoop houses and other agricultural structures. Collection sites can also accept white over-wintering LDPE#4 film used by the nursery industry. Materials should be relatively clean and dry.

Materials not being accepted include black plastic field mulch, irrigation tape, silage bales and other types of agricultural plastic, and non-agricultural LDPE#4 films such as boat wrap and construction plastic. Also not accepted are plastic saturated with water, ice or snow at the time of drop-off and dirty plastic that has been repurposed.

To register and find complete instructions, visit the greenhouse plastic recycling project webpage, https://extension.umaine.edu/agriculture/greenhouse-plastic-recycling/, or call 207-342-5971. For more information or to request a reasonable accommodation, contact David McDaniel, 207-323-4315; agplasticrecycli[email protected].

The website includes fact sheets on the program, instructions on how to cut plastic to fit a standard wood pallet, and an interactive map giving site locations and hours of operation.

The pilot project was developed by UMaine Extension and funded by a Maine Department of Environmental Protection Waste Diversion grant. Affiliated partners donating additional time and resources include the Maine Organic Gardeners Association, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Maine, and the Maine Resource Recovery Association.

“Recycling sites are not county specific,” McDaniel said in a phone interview Friday, Sept. 25. “Farmers may drop off plastics on their way south or to meetings. They can go to the most convenient one.”

The main reason for the pre-registration requirement is to know how to fold the plastic for drop-off, he said.

“Because the program is self-serve, farmers need to understand,” McDaniel said. “Keeping the bundles neat and square counts.”

The map on the website will be updated with new information, he said.

The most convenient sites for farmers in this area are Farmington USDA Service Center, FEDCO Organic Growers Supply in Clinton, Extension’s Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, or Extension offices in Skowhegan and South Paris.

“The goal is to have sites open until December 15. An office may close early due to the weather,” McDaniel said.



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