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The 2011 ASHS Annual Conference

Incineration of Used Ag Plastics for Energy: A Case Study of Cement Kilns In Florida and Guatemala

Sunday, September 25, 2011: 3:00 PM
Queens 6
Keith Williamson, Past President of American Plasticulture Society, Techmar PM, Guardian Ag Plastics, Hartsville, SC
Since the introduction of the use of plastic films and drip tape in agriculture, many have searched for a way to obtain some value from these used products. Recycling is difficult because of the large amount of foreign material, especially dirt, in these products.  Although open burning and land-filling have not been satisfactory disposal options for environmental reasons, these have been the dominant means of disposal in the Western Hemisphere, even though the per pound energy output of these plastics is recognized to be roughly double that of coal.

It has been clear that cement kilns could potentially be a good option for incineration, since dirt is not harmful to this process. High burning temperatures break down chemical and organic residues, and these kilns have immense and increasingly costly energy needs. 

Two successful cases of burning soiled agricultural film at cement plants are in Guatemala and Florida.  In each case, the cement companies have installed the equipment necessary to handle the used film and have paid some of the freight charges to make this option attractive to growers.  As a result, in these two instances, a value for the used plastics has benefited cement plant owners, growers, and the environment. 

An analysis if these two cases will be presented as a model for other cement operations throughout the regions where plasticulture exists.