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County rides to rescue of farm plastics recycling program

Plastic wrap waiting for pickup in a Revolution Plastics dumpster at a Becker County farm. The dumpsters will remain under a new Becker County program. Submitted photo 1 / 3
Farm plastic awaits baling at the Becker County Recycling Center at the transfer station. Submitted photo2 / 3
Farm plastic piled at the Becker County Recycling Center will be baled and shipped off to become new plastic bags and other products. submitted photo3 / 3

Otter Tail County and Becker County are launching an unusual three-way partnership to pick up, bale and recycle farm plastics, boat wrap and greenhouse plastic.

The idea is to fill the void left by a plastics recycler pulling out of central Minnesota, including Becker and Otter Tail counties.

Arkansas-based Revolution Plastics officially launched in southern Wisconsin in June 2016, and expanded into Minnesota six months later.

Revolution now collects more than 250 million pounds of ag plastics per year, according to the Resource Recycling news site. Only LDPE film is accepted, because that's what its parent company, Delta Plastics, uses in its production plants, making plastic bags and other products.

Each of the 30 participating farms in Becker County received its own 8-cubic-yard dumpster, and the company picked up the plastics for free.

Farmers could recycle things like used irrigation tape and tubing and cover; fumigation, greenhouse and hoophouse films; used bale wrap; ag/grain bags; most bunker covers and oxygen barrier film.

But since Revolution Plastics is retreating from central Minnesota, those 30 Becker County farmers, mostly dairy farmers, and 60 percent of them located in the Wolf Lake area, would have to pay perhaps $120 a dumpster load to have the plastics hauled away with the regular garbage.

Under Becker County's new program, farmers will pay $60 a dumpster load to have their plastics picked up by Becker County, which will bale it at its new recycling center.

Revolution Plastics will pick it up by the semi load when there are enough bales, which are dense and heavy and weigh nearly a ton apiece, said Becker County Environmental Services Administrator Steve Skoog.

"We know how many tons we have baled up," he said. "We can get 20 or 21 tons on a truck and that's it."

More farmers or companies are welcome to join the program, but to make it worthwhile they need to generate maybe three or four dumpsters worth of plastic a year, or several producers could share a dumpster, Skoog said. Boat wrap and greenhouse wrap is also accepted under the program, he said.

It just goes to show that if there are enough producers looking to recycle material, a market can be found, Skoog said. Revolution Plastics doesn't accept regular shrink wrap, but a similar program could be set up to accept shrink wrap if enough producers have the material for pickup.

Same with producers who have a lot of plastics and metals to recycle. They can be co-mingled now and easily processed at the county recycling center, which means just one dumpster would be needed instead of several. That opens up possibilities for companies that otherwise don't generate enough recyclables or don't have room for more than one dumpster, Skoog said. "That's our next big thing," he added.

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