New Jersey's Agricultural Plastics Recycling Program

Thursday, July 25, 2013: 12:30 PM
Desert Salon 13-14 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Wesley L. Kline , Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Millville, NJ
Karen Kritz , New Jersey Dept. of Agriculture, Trenton, NJ
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s (NJDA) first efforts at recycling agricultural plastics started in 1991 with baling greenhouse and nursery film.  The effort was not successful as the results of an inadequate long-term market.  NJDA accepted the role as facilitator in 1997 to develop a statewide program in an effort to recover an estimated one million pounds used each year by growers.  From 1997 through 2004 the program was seasonal and collected on average 350,000 to 500,000 pounds annually.  Each year participation increased and in 2005 expanded to a year round program collecting from 547,000 to a high of 1.1 million pounds per year.  Through 2012, New Jersey has recycled almost 10 million pounds of nursery and greenhouse film. Growers have modified traditional round balers to accommodate baling film.  Others have purchased specifically designed balers that compact plastic into square 1,000 pound bales.  These machines can save 75% in labor when removing plastic from overwintering structures and keeps the plastic clean.  Three workers can remove film from four structures in 15 minutes where using traditional manual labor would take 7–8 workers 90–120 minutes. A pesticide container recycling program was initiated in 2002 with the cooperation of the Ag Container Recycling Council.  The first year 676 containers were collected from 40 participants. NJDA determined that the program was not cost effective and only one location continued to accept containers.  The program expanded in 2008 to three locations with a private public partnership.  In 2012, the program had 242 participants and approximately 110,000 containers were collected.  Mulch film and drip tape recycling has been a challenge since it is “dirty stuff.”  Mulch film can contain between 50% to 60% contaminants comprised of soil, plant material, and other foreign matter.  There are more than 10,000 acres where plastic is used for vegetable production in New Jersey.  Each year farmers landfill this material and pay more than $65 to $100 per ton for tipping fees for the estimated six million pounds of material.  In 2012, two firms began an economic development project to establish a facility in Northern and Southern New Jersey to collect, wash and recycle mulch film, drip irrigation tape, bunker silo plastic, peat moss bags, and other agricultural films that may be contaminated. If this project is successful growers will be able to recycle most of their mulch film and drip tape, save money, and prolong the life of landfills.
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