Source: Irrigation Today
For decades, irrigation has helped farmers produce higher yields of better quality using fewer resources. But at the end of its lifecycle, many irrigation plastics need to be recycled. Until recently, most recycled drip tapes, polytube and driplines were placed in landfills, shipped elsewhere or buried on farms. Farmers pay upwards of hundreds of dollars an acre for disposal in landfills, an increasingly unsustainable alternative. Clearly a better solution was needed.
In one recycling service, the Ag Plastic Pickup mobile app offers “ridesharing” for ag plastic. Farmers use the mobile app to conveniently schedule their plastic pickup service in a few easy steps. They simply upload a photo of the plastic to be recycled, drop a pin on the location and then press submit to schedule a pickup time. It’s really that simple. Farmers also have the option to order pickups by phone or email as well.
The state-of-the-art equipment and logistical support of the service further simplifies recycling for farmers. The fleet of nimble grapple-hook trucks enables field access so that farmers can make multiple piles in-field rather than trying to self- transport irrigation plastics to one big pile. Thus, field prep is made easy, and pickup turnaround time is fast.
Once at the recycling facility, the plastic is processed into post-consumer resin [PCR] to produce trash can liners and other agricultural and construction sheeting products that are certified as ECOLOGO, a UL environmental certification. As a result, spent ag plastics are always wanted and are never turned away due to the fluctuating international PCR prices that traditional recyclers/waste haulers are dependent upon. In addition, local jobs are created, the need for virgin resins is reduced, and a sustainable business model is created.
In one company alone, each year over 150 million pounds of material is recycled through its operations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and parts of Texas. In addition to polytubing and irrigation plastics, other agriculture plastics are recycled including drip tape, mulch film, silage bags, greenhouse film and grain covers. The company also recycles cow silage plastic in Wisconsin through a 4,000-dumpster collection process. In 2014, the recycling program surpassed the one billion pounds of waste material recycled milestone. Today, the company has recycled over 1.5 billion pounds of material.
A plastics recycling program is an important part of a mission to preserve the farmland. The used irrigation plastics and polytubing would otherwise be dumped in landfills, burned, buried or stacked in unsightly piles on the farm.
The success of these types of recycling programs comes through a strong partnership with growers willing to remove this plastic and recycle it into useful products used across the country. Partnering with growers and industry leaders to protect our environment is crucial for the future of farming and the irrigation industry.
The Toro Drip Irrigation Recycling Service was recognized at the 2016 Irrigation Show and Education Conference as winner of the 2016 New Product Contest in specialty agriculture.
Article by Inge Bisconer and Dhu Thompson via Irrigation Today