Progress 10/01/05 to 12/31/09
OUTPUTS: The Recycling Ag Plastics Project (RAPP) has presented talks, displays and recycling demonstrations at more than 100 outreach events to diverse groups of stakeholders from the recycling, agricultural and environmental communities. These include the Empire State Green Industry Show, Empire Farm Days, county and regional fairs and similar venues; Northeast Dairy Producers Association, representing the largest dairy farms in the region; a Cornell-sponsored forum for organic producers; local and statewide NY Farm Bureau and NY Grange; Soil and Water Conservation Districts; Extension; and NYSAR3, the NYS recycling organization. The project has been featured in at least 75 media stories that we are aware of, including national magazine coverage in Hoard's Dairymen, Northeast Dairy Business, Farming, Vegetable Growers, and American Agriculturalist, as well as radio/TV coverage on NPR and local stations. We organized the first national symposium on product stewardship of agricultural films, a two-day workshop held in early 2009 as part of the annual conference of The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA). This symposium built on the work of prior conferences we organized under TPSA auspices and on the momentum of TPSA's Ag Plastic Management Workgroup that we co-convene. Workgroup mailings now reach more than 100 stakeholder groups and individuals. Workgroup roundtables have taken place over the course of approximately nine conference calls, each of which has involved 20-30 participants. Discussion topics have included: fostering industry-driven product stewardship, identifying appropriate end products and consumer markets for products made from recycled ag plastics, certifications and standards for these products, plastic waste conversion to oil, chain-of-custody, cost-effective collection systems, etc. We have developed several databases, including a database of end-products made from recycled agricultural plastics; a database of plastics manufacturing facilities situated to process ag plastics ; and a large database of more than 3000 stakeholders from the manufacturing, recycling and agricultural communities. These databases have proved invaluable for networking purposes, and are widely shared for those purposes. RAPP plays a national leadership role in developing and disseminating technical information re: ag plastic recycling opportunities and constraints. In addition to formal program responsibilities, we respond to 10-20 emails or phone calls weekly requesting technical support. RAPP's best management guidelines and other technical resources are widely distributed electronically and in poster or handout format. Technical resources include: survey instruments to assess usage and disposal practices of agricultural plastics; a matrix of criteria and indicators to assess quality of plastics submitted for recycling (this also serves as a metric for adoption of our BMP guidelines); a survey of solid waste facilities to assess their facilities and willingness to participate in ag plastic recycling; a checklist of tools and procedures to conduct collection events; and safety and operation guidelines for use of the plastics baler. PARTICIPANTS: In addition to participants listed previously, the project has worked directly with hundreds of farmers in the three target areas of NYS as well as with workshop participants in NY, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, and across North America with members of TPSA's Ag Plastics Management Workgroup. We have worked with students in several FFA Chapters and lectured in multiple college classrooms. TARGET AUDIENCES: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.
This project conceptualized and promoted a vision for a pollution-preventing system for disposing of waste agricultural plastics. At the time the project began, the infrastructure for processing waste agricultural films did not exist in most places or was too weak to be propelled and sustained by market forces alone. The ethos of product stewardship had yet to be awakened in this industry. The strategy of this project was to approach product stewardship of agricultural plastics from multiple points in a system that had not yet coalesced. We strove to build bridges between agriculture, environmental protection and regional economic development by networking among diverse groups of stakeholders. Our geographic focus was New York State, where RAPP but the conceptual scope of the project and its results have extended beyond the NYS borders. EPA project funds were leveraged to develop a collaboration with the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) to present workshops and help to organize stakeholders in New England. The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA) has been the primary venue for developing national and international networks of stakeholders. We successfully leveraged EPA project funding into other grants and contracts that have enabled us to go beyond promoting the concept of ag plastic recycling and begin to actually implement programs in regions of NYS. We have initiated conversations with plastics manufacturers to promote the idea of using recyclable ag plastics as manufacturing feedstock. We have provided potential manufacturers with feasibility analyses, networking, and assistance in seeking public support for equipment modifications to enable processing of this moist and dirty feedstock, and to do so with efficient processing equipment that reduces pre-processing steps and cuts energy input by more than half. Despite obstacles, including the global economic recession and near bankruptcy of NYS, which have limited avenues of support, we have successfully brokered relationships with manufacturers in Upstate NY that are willing and able to handle the full array of plastic we can collect on NYS farms. The project has generated enthusiasm among partners across the political spectrum and from stakeholders in agriculture, economic development, and environmental and health protection. This enthusiasm and engagement have led to changes in behaviors re: handling and disposing of ag plastics. The project has raised awareness about the environmental and health consequences of open burning of agricultural films, contributing to the cultural shift away from open burning by households or on farms. By spotlighting the life-cycle costs and benefits of agricultural plastics, the project has shed light on societal as well as farm-scale costs, benefits, appropriate uses, and limitations of the biodegradable products that could potentially be used in lieu of non-degradable, disposable agricultural plastics. The project has similarly promoted an appreciation of the energy value of plastics, which is comparable to that of the fossil fuels from which they are derived.
- Levitan L. 2009. Recycling Horticultural Plastics: Best Management Practices to Keep Plastic Clean Enough to Recycle. Two-page poster printed by the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) and accessible at environmentalrisk.cornell.edu/AgPlastics and http://www.newmoa.org/solidwaste/projects/agplastic/.
- Levitan L. 2009. Recycling Dairy Plastics: Best Management Practices to Keep Plastic Clean Enough to Recycle. Two-page poster printed by the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) and accessible at environmentalrisk.cornell.edu/AgPlastics and http://www.newmoa.org/solidwaste/projects/agplastic/.
- Levitan L. and Putman B. 2009. Recycle Maple Tubing. Two-page poster accessible at environmentalrisk.cornell.edu/AgPlastics.
- Scherer C.W., Yuan C., Levitan L., Rickard L., and Lu L. 2009. Risk Information Sufficiency in an Emerging Information Environment. Society for Risk Analysis 2009 Annual Meeting(p. 175).
- Rickard L., Scherer C., Levitan L. 2009. Damning the dump, banning the burn: Understanding the farmer's dilemma in agricultural plastics disposal in New York State. 2009 Conference on Communication and the Environment (COCE), June 27-30, 2009 Portland, ME.
Progress 10/01/07 to 09/30/08
OUTPUTS: CONDUCTED TRAINING WORKSHOPS AND DEMONSTRATIONS throughout NYS and New England. Stimulated national dialogue using venues of national organizations such as The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance and the American Society for Plasticulture. During 2008 RAPP reached thousands of individuals in NY, NE and nationwide by means of displays and presentations at more than 40 events variously targeted to producers in all sectors of agriculture, recyclers, Extension, Soil and Water Conservation personnel, students, regulators and policy-makers. DEVELOPED TRAINING AND OPERATIONAL MATERIALS. In addition to an array of presentation and display materials, which are custom designed for particular geographies and agricultural sectors, RAPP developed (1) Guidelines for safety and operation of plastic compaction equipment. (2) Best Management Practices (BMP) guidelines for handling ag plastics so that they are suitable for recycling. (3) A quality assessment matrix for the plastic submitted for recycling, which is the metric we use for assessing adoption of BMPs and the success of our outreach campaign. (4) A Transfer Station Survey to assess the facilities, equipment and interest of solid waste and recycling agencies and businesses in participating in agricultural plastics recycling. CONDUCTED OUTREACH CAMPAIGN with the goal of reaching 75% of farmers in target regions with information why to recycle and how to become involved with the local recycling program. During 2008 RAPP efforts were chronicled in at least 25 stories in the agricultural trade press and mass media (this project assisted in writing and placement of much of this material). Curricular resources are posted on the RAPP website <environmentalrisk.cornell.edu/AgPlastics>. BMP guidelines and other materials have also been inserted into the Cornell Guidelines series as well as Extension and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) newsletters. ORGANIZED LOCALLY VIABLE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR RECYCLING the plastics generated by local agriculture. In each area we are working with a local leader and key contact; have organized an Advisory Committee comprised of agricultural producers, SWCD staff and board members, Extension educators, agribusinesses and recyclers. RAPP staff are training these trainers and other farmers in BMPs; conducting outreach using media and face-to-face workshops and demonstrations; and scheduling events and routes to collect waste plastic. Collaborated in developing suitable PLASTICS BALING EQUIPMENT for compaction and transport of waste plastic from farm to market; working to acquire balers for partner regions; and develop safety and operational guidelines. CULTIVATED REGIONAL MANUFACTURING AND CONSUMER MARKETS to process the waste ag plastics with minimal transportation footprint. EVALUATE attitude and behavior change as well as quantity and quality of plastic collected by means of our "Producer Participant" and "Usage and Disposal" surveys. PARTICIPANTS: This project (the Cornell-based Recycling Ag Plastics Project) partnered with (1) the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) to offer training workshops to agricultural educators, producers, recycling and solid waste agencies and businesses in rural areas of NY, VT, NH and ME. (2) The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA) to create a national workgroup to discuss product life-cycle stewardship issues (e.g., emerging markets and appropriate products, whether there is need for chain of custody, producer responsibility, how to sustain recycling systems, etc.). This project has taken leadership in organizing relevant sessions at the annual TPSA conference as well as during monthly workgroup conference calls. (3) The New York Farm Viability Institute, which has provided a two-year grant to implement recycling programs in three areas of NYS and to develop the requisite infrastructure and markets. (4) NYS regional Advisory Committees organized to partner with RAPP to implement sustainable recycling programs in the three areas of NYS. Members include farmers from all locally relevant agricultural sectors, Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District personnel and Board members, USDA Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) personnel and Board members. (5) NYS DEC, which is in process of implementing regulations to prohibit open burning and is, therefore, committed to the success of a viable recycling option for farmers. (6) Dennis Sutton, developer of the Big Foot Plastic Baler, equipment of the type that RAPP considers essential for effective collection and transport of used plastic. (7) Colleagues Cliff Scherer, Connie Yuan, Laura Rickard and Li Lu in the Cornell University Department of Communication, with whom the project is working on related research questions. Field staff employed by this project include David Cox, now the agricultural issues leader with Schoharie County CCE, and Blake Putman, formerly dairy educator with Clinton Co CCE. During 2008 RAPP presented displays and/or workshops at more than 40 training events. TARGET AUDIENCES: This project targets (1) agricultural producers, primarily in the three targeted multi-county agricultural regions of NYS (Western NY, Cattaraugus-Chautauqua-Allegany; North Country West, Jefferson-St. Lawrence-Lewis; and the Lake Champlain Watershed Improvement District, Clinton-Essex-Franklin-Washington-Warren); (2) agricultural educators and (3) recycling agencies and businesses throughout NYS and New England; (4) plastics manufacturers who are potentially interested in acquiring used agricultural plastics as feedstock; (4) manufacturers of agricultural plastic products, to engage them in developing life-cycle stewardship models and recycling systems. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: During this reporting period the project moved from a conceptual to an implementation stage as a result of funding from the NY Farm Viability Institute to organize recycling programs in several ares of NYS.
Recycling of used ag plastic is a concrete and pragmatic means to implement energy conservation and sustainability while supporting production agriculture and stimulating regional economic development. Recycling safeguards the health of people, livestock and wildlife by offering an alternative to the common practices of open burning and dumping of waste ag plastics. This project has stimulated a national dialogue about product life-cycle stewardship of agricultural plastics. By fostering a model of working with local markets, rather than exporting scrap plastic, this project has supported manufacturing in rural Upstate NY. The project has build bridges between agriculture and solid waste/recycling communities by including both groups in our advisory committees. Working on local, regional and national scales, this project has made a significant contribution to framing ag plastics disposal as an issue relevant to producers, manufacturers, and solid waste handler, and engaging diverse stakeholders in understanding its relation to them. Our expectations are that: (a) Within the next several years, farmers will incorporate recycling of farm plastic wastes into their agricultural production systems. (b) Market forces (with support from ag plastic product suppliers) will eventually propel the ag plastics recycling system. (c) Local ag educators and advisors (e.g., Extension and SWCD), working in concert with local recyclers and solid waste handlers, will be sufficiently trained and engaged to continue their local recycling ag plastics recycling programs beyond the period of grant funding. This project has made significant progress towards meeting these expectations, albeit with hurdles. The effect of the current economic situation on recycling is one such hurdle, as is the uncertainty of ongoing program support for the near- and mid-term. Recycling will be sustainable only if products made from recycled materials are in demand; thus this project faces the hurdle of developing consumer markets with preferential purchasing of products made from used ag plastics. If successful, this project will have met our triple objectives of safeguarding health and the environment, supporting agriculture, and stimulating regional economic development. In 2008, the efforts coordinated and promoted by the Recycling Ag Plastics Project (RAPP) were enabled by complementary funding from the NY Farm Viability Institute, the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA), US EPA Region 2 Pollution Prevention Program, Hatch NYC-131405, and Smith-Lever.
- No publications reported this period
Progress 01/01/07 to 12/31/07
OUTPUTS: Identification and cultivation of manufacturing markets for recyclable ag plastics is a major constraint to development of recycling programs and a significant focus of our efforts. A database of viable and potential markets has been developed. As Program Chair for the February 2006 working conference of The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA)*, I organized several forums for existing and potential markets for waste agricultural plastics in which we explored options and constraints to recycling for different types of markets. In sum, the key issues are the need for a clean and color-free feedstock for higher value products and the need for a steady, high volume flow of feedstock for lower value products. In addition to manufacture of new products from recycled ag plastics, the TPSA panels also addressed feasibility of converting waste plastics to diesel (for both fuel and new resins) and to other forms of combustible energy. Follow-up to the 2007 marketing panels continued
in discussions throughout the year and will continue at the February 2008 TPSA conference, which I have also organized. Lack of collection and recycling infrastructure is the other major constraint to sustainable recycling systems. To overcome this constraint, we have been organizing regional teams to develop local recycling systems. In collaboration with the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association, we have formed a Northeast Regional Ag Plastics Advisory Group to direct educational and promotional efforts in rural areas of four Northeast states, including New York. This advisory group is comprised primarily of state-level agency staff and policymakers. In addition, we have formed local ag plastic recycling coordinating teams in three rural areas of NYS: Western NY (Cattaraugus-Chautauqua-Allegany); The North Country West (Jefferson-St. Lawrence-Lewis); and the five counties in the Lake Champlain Watershed Improvement Coalition (Clinton-Essex-Franklin-Washington-Warren).
These teams will be expanded to include Cornell Cooperative Extension educators and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) partners, agribusinesses, and recyclers. We have been consulting with equipment manufacturers to improve upon prototype ag film balers and compactors that will function most efficiently and cost-effectively in the field, and assessing variants on waste ag plastic collection systems for different situations. *TPSA is the premier international organization promoting life-cycle stewardship of plastic pesticide containers and other agricultural plastics
PARTICIPANTS: Jan Martusewicz Leray Sealed Storage 28787 Martin Road North Evans Mills NY 13637 Work: 315-629-4143 Fax: 315-629-5854 Affiliation: AgriBusiness. Distributor of ag film to dairy industry. Mr. Dennis Sutton 2007 74th St. N.W. Bradenton FL 34209 Work: 941-761-8293 Affiliation: AgriBusiness. Salesman for plastic mulch films and developer of prototype ag film baler. Art Baderman CCE Jefferson County, ag outreach educator 203 North Hamilton St. Watertown NY 13601 Work: 315-788-8450 Fax: 315-788-8461 Affiliation: CCE Association - local project team leader Wendy Sanfilippo CCE Chautauqua County, recycling specialist 3542 Turner Rd Jamestown NY 14701 Work: 716-664-9502 Cell: 716-450-8309 Affiliation: CCE Association - local project leader Frans Vokey CCE - Lewis County, dairy/farm team coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org PO Box 72 Lowville NY 13367 Work: 315-376-5270 Affiliation: CCE Association - local project leader Nichelle Billhardt Lewis County Soil & Water Conservation
District, District Manager PO Box 9 Lowville NY 13367 Work: 315-376-6122 Jeffrey Contino Chautauqua County Landfill, Solid Waste Analyst 3889 Towerville Road Jamestown NY 14701 Work: 716-664-9502 David Cox Recycling Ag Plastics Project (RAPP) 293 County Highway 40 South Worcester NY 12197 Work: 607-397-9179 Home: 607-397-9179 Cell: 607-432-0006 Fax: 607-397-9179 Steve Mahoney Clinton County Soil & Water Conservation District, Manager 6064 Route 22, Suite 1 Plattsburgh NY 12901 Work: 518-561-4616 Allan Ormond Cattaraugus County DPW, Waste Manager Coordinator 8810 Route 242 Little Valley NY 14755 Work: 716-938-9121x2441 Donald Reeners Ultimate Recycled Plastics (potential ag plastics market in NYS) County Rte 7 Port Gibson NY Work: 585-370-4718 Cell: 585-370-4718 Dave Wilson Chautauqua County Soil and Water 3542 Turner Road Jamestown NY 14701-9607 Work: 716-664-2351x3 Y. Connie Yuan and Cliff Scherer, Dept Communication faculty - Co-PIs on Hatch research using Levitan work on ag
plastics recycling for case study of information seeking, efficacy of CCE outreach, and perceptions of risk (Hatch NYC-131405). Department of Communication Graduate students: Laura Rickard, Ling Xia, and Claire Lu.
TARGET AUDIENCES: Target audiences are farmers in all ag sectors (who use disposable plastics and now generate wastes that are often burned in open fires or dumped on farm), recycling and solid waste agencies and businesses (who are often not attuned to rural constituencies), and potential recycling markets (which are currently not aware of or have not been interested in ag plastic wastes. Intended beneficiaries are: Dairy, livestock, field crops and horticulture producers throughout New York State and beyond. Health and the environment on farms and in nearby rural communities will benefit from improved air quality (open burning generates dioxins, particulates and heavy metals). Soil and water quality will be improved because mulch and other ag films are now often plowed into farm fields or end up in farm ditches and streams. Producers who now haul plastic waste to transfer stations will reduce production costs by avoiding tipping fees averaging $70/ton and rising. Nurseries
disposing of clean plastic greenhouse covers can gross 10 cents/lb selling to recyclers. Recycling, reprocessing and manufacturing products from recycled ag plastics will create rural jobs.
Plastic manufacturers who had not previously accepted or worked with agricultural plastics are now considering them as feedstock. Agricultural sectors that had previously not considered disposal of ag plastics as their problem are increasingly recognizing it as a significant environmental health issue of concern to their constituencies, and are also recognizing the possible economic development ramifications of domestic recycling and re-manufacture.
- No publications reported this period
Progress 01/01/06 to 12/31/06
The overarching long-term goal of this project is to contribute to development of a nationwide sustainable infrastructure for collection and pollution-preventing disposal of the throwaway plastics used in agriculture, particularly film products (e.g., the dairy bags, bunker silo covers, and balage wrap used to exclude oxygen from stored forage; irrigation drip tape; greenhouse covers; mulch and fumigation films; tarps; bird and bale netting; seed, feed and fertilizer bags, etc. Significant progress was made in both applied research and outreach on local, regional and national levels:  To propel the concept and organization of agricultural plastics recycling beyond the individuals funded by this grant, we conceptualized, branded and publicized the Recycling Ag Plastics Project (RAPP), giving it the tag-line Life-Cycle Stewardship of Agricultural Plastics.  RAPP organized a week long demonstration tour of agricultural film baling equipment, stopping at nurseries,
dairy farms, and the NYS Empire Farm Days. In addition to publicizing the recycling concept and Best Management Practices for handling ag plastics, research on baling efficacy was conducted. Labor, time and resource costs were measured for baling various plastic products under a range of conditions. We used a mobile unit called the Big Foot Baler powered by the hydraulics of farm equipment because it can be transporter farm-to-farm on a trailer for on-site collections. Results showed that a 1500 lb bale of film can be compacted within half an hour if prepared properly. However, we concluded that the baler lacked certain safety and efficiency features that would be improved if it had a self-contained power unit. RAPP has begun working with the manufacturer to make these improvements.  In conjunction with publicizing the Baling Demonstrations, the RAPP website was expanded and remains a key portal to an array of resources relating to agricultural plastics recycling. (See:
environmentalrisk.cornell.edu/agplastics)  Also in conjunction with the Baling Demonstrations, RAPP developed a large mailing list (2000 people, organizations) to which we will send a biannual eNewsletter with information about recycling markets, infrastructure development, etc., in the next stages of this project.  RAPP developed and pilot tested the Agricultural Plastics: Use and Disposal Survey to quantify and benchmark the amounts of plastics used and the problem of improper disposal. This survey will be administered more broadly and results analyzed in the next stages of the project. This effort evolved in order to interest recycling centers in handling agricultural plastics, recognizing that they need means of estimating potential through put. This measurement tool also has application on regional and national scales, for use by potential markets and funding agencies.  RAPP cultivated potential markets for recyclable agricultural plastics, prioritizing domestic
re-manufacturers of products that could best utilize these typically dirty used materials.  RAPP associates participated and organized workshops across the US, primarily in NYS and New England.
With few options for off-farm disposal, many farmers have been burning waste plastic, letting it blow around, or burying it on-farm. When left behind in fields, film and twine clog water channels, entangle equipment, create a choking hazard for livestock and wildlife, and are visually obtrusive, reducing aesthetic and tourism appeal. Low temperature open fires release dioxins, heavy metals and particulates at a far higher rate per mass of material burned than does controlled incineration. The resulting impacts on human health (and likely also, animal health) are a significant concern to US EPA and similar environmental protection agencies worldwide. Food is the primary route of exposure to dioxins in the US, particularly meat and dairy. Release of dioxins near the base of the food chain creates health risks at home and raises potential barriers for export into the many countries where open burning is prohibited. Economically, recycling will typically reduce costs to
farmers who now haul their used agricultural plastics to a landfill. Furthermore, significant fossil fuel resources will be conserved by recycling or converting the embodied energy in plastic waste to fuel or concentrated energy. With a recycling infrastructure in place, this project will conservatively reduce dioxin emissions from NYS dairy farms by 20 mg TEQ per yea, assuming a 20 percent capture rate. If the 10,000 lb of film collected during the Summer 2006 Demonstration Baling Tour were recycled, this small research pilot alone reduced dioxin emissions by 0.3 mg TEQ.
- No publications reported this period