Why so many plastics by sofiaie


									                                    Agricultural Plastic Recycling
                                                    Dr. Arthur Cameron
                                                  Professor of Horticulture
                                                  Michigan State University
                                                  East Lansing, MI 48840

#2    High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)                            #5 Polypropylene (PP)
Uses. HDPE is primarily used for constructing nursery             Uses. Polypropylene is commonly used to construct
containers for trees and shrubs. They are blow-molded             plant containers, especially those used for greenhouse
and usually have a central hole in the bottom of the pot.         production of house plants, herbs, annuals, and bedding
Outside of agriculture, the most important use for HDPE           plants. Web flats are generally made from PP. It is
plastic is for milk containers manufactured through the           favored since it is generally more durable than HIPS,
process of blow molding. HDPE is valued since it is               lightweight and resists breakage.           Polypropylene
tough, pliable, and resists breakage even in full sunlight.       eventually becomes brittle as it ages, especially when
Reusing HDPE. HDPE-constructed plant containers                   exposed to UV light. Polypropylene is also used for auto
should be reused only if they are properly sterilized. In         parts, food containers, and dishware. Spun-bonded
particular, Thielaviopsis spores (a potent pathogen) can          polypropylene (sometimes referred to as woven
persist and infect subsequent crops if not completely             polypropylene) is used for frost protection, as a moisture
eliminated by appropriate sanitation procedures.                  barrier for buildings, and as disposable water repellent
Recycling HDPE. When clean, HDPE is one of the
easiest plastics to recycle, though major recycling efforts       Reusing PP. Reusing PP containers is possible but
are typically devoted to milk containers. Dirt and other          carries the same warnings as those for HDPE
contaminants reduce the value of nursery containers, but          containers. Diseases such as Thielaviopsis which can
more recycle companies can now wash nursery                       persist as spores can be a serious issue.
containers. Mixed colors should not be a problem.                 Recycling PP. PP should be recyclable when relatively
Recycled HDPE can be reformed into plastic timber for             free of dirt. Virgin PP is white, whereas recycled PP will
landscaping, picnic tables, and even railroad ties.               always be darker, or even black due to contaminants,
                                                                  which in some applications presents a barrier. PP must
                                                                  be completely or at least relatively free of dirt when
#4    Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)                             recycled depending on availability of appropriate
Uses. This relatively inexpensive plastic is used                 washing equipment.
extensively throughout the world to cover greenhouses.
It has also proven highly effective as a mulching material
for diverse food and ornamental crops such as                     #6    High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)
strawberries, vegetables, and even herbaceous                     Uses. HIPS is commonly used for molding the trays
perennial plants.                                                 (flats) used for seedlings and small plants. Pure solid
Recycling LDPE greenhouse films. LDPE films are not               polystyrene is colorless, but generally plug trays are
typically reused, but they can be recycled and the                black since they are constructed from recycled plastic.
secondary product can be made into products such as               Trays constructed from HIPS are relatively inexpensive
trash bags and plastic timber. When used as a mulch,              and extremely lightweight. Polystyrene is also used in
moisture and trapped soil reduces the quality of the              cafeteria trays, various cases and toys. Expanded
recycled plastic. Some plastic recycling companies                polystyrene, known as styrofoam, has long been used
specialize in developing wash line systems for cleaning           for small plant containers.
these plastics. Still, washing is an extra cost and many          Reusing HIPS. HIPS trays can be reused, but must first
plastic recyclers do not have this equipment, which               be sterilized to control disease contamination.
reduces the number of options available to growers.
When used as a greenhouse cover, LDPE films break                 Recycling HIPS trays. HIPS trays are extremely light,
down due to UV radiation which also limits the                    difficult to compress, and come in a multitude of designs.
usefulness in recycled products. Unless baled, LDPE               Unless they are all of the same design, they do not stack
film has a very low bulk density and is inefficient to            or nest. Recycling of HIPS can be limited by the extent
transport. Thus, LDPE films should first be baled before          of contamination and the ability of recyclers to
transporting. Several types of balers can be rented or            completely clean the plastic before melting. In some
purchased. In some cases, recycling companies will                cases, HIPS can be melted and remolded directly back
provide the baling equipment for a limited amount of time         into trays, which eliminates a step in the recycling
when growers are removing field mulch or greenhouse               process. Expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) is generally
coverings. In the state of New Jersey, there is a                 more difficult to recycle, and has a bad reputation for
statewide effort to aid growers on the recycling of LDPE          accumulating in the environment.
                                RECYCLING HORTICULTURAL PLASTICS
Collection. In New Jersey, there is a state-supported       Sorting and Separation
program to connect growers with recyclers for the           The several different types of plastics that are
greenhouse film, LDPE. In Michigan, there is no such        typically returned from recycling must be carefully
state-led facilitation, and growers, until recently, have   sorted and cleaned if the plastic is to have a higher
had a hard time finding suitable companies. A list of       resale value. For instance, even small amounts of PP
recycle companies that have expressed an interest in        can reduce the quality of HDPE or HIPS. It takes
working with growers and communities to recycle Ag          trained personnel to efficiently and effectively sort the
plastics are listed below with contacts.                    various plastics, since sometimes the differences can
                                                            be hard to detect. In some cases, the recycling
Many recycling companies require a minimum amount           companies will sort the plastic, but this reduces the
of plastic before they will come to pick it up. This        value of the plastic sold by the community or grower.
requires that a grower store plastic until an adequate      There are any number of designs for plastic pots and
amount has accumulated, or that several growers             trays and these typically do not stack or compress
cooperate to combine their plastic. This is possible,       easily. This causes a severe limitation of recycling
but to date, the low value of the plastic has not           since it increases the space they require and hence
provided adequate incentive, and most is still              the cost of transportation. When properly sorted,
deposited at landfills. Localized collection sites,         grinding machines can greatly increase the bulk
preferably with capacity to bale and to grind plastic,      density and hence reduce shipping costs.
would be ideal.
Few if any Michigan communities offer curbside              All contamination, including soil, sand, organic matter,
pickup of horticulture pots and containers for home         paper, moisture, and improperly sorted plastic
gardeners. This would be a welcome improvement in           reduces the quality of the final recycled plastic.
recycling opportunities for gardeners, landscapers          Currently, the value of recycled plastic has taken the
and growers alike.                                          same fall as crude oil and gasoline. Thus recyclers
                                                            may be less inclined to accept dirty plastic at this
Unfortunately, collection alone does not guarantee          time, since there are additional costs associated with
that the plastics are properly recycled. In some            cleaning and drying. Another issue is proper sorting.
cases, they can be still be taken to landfills, burned,     Other types of plastic are also considered
or even transported to China.                               contaminants since they reduce the value of the
                                                            recycled product.
Recycle drives using volunteers are still an important
means of collecting plastic and directing it to             The quality of the recycled plastic is always
appropriate recycling companies is yet another option       less than that of virgin plastic due to
increasing in popularity in Michigan. These can been        contaminants (soil, or other plastics) and
organized by communities, botanic gardens, retail           decomposition.
nurseries and even recycling companies.          They
generally require large amounts of coordination,            Unless new technology is discovered, there can be no
volunteers, and in some cases monetary                      improvement in quality and purity during the recycling
subsidization, depending on the amount of plastic           steps. It may be possible to minimize the loss in
collected, the density of packing, and the distance to      quality, but it will always be a downward spiral. Mulch
the recycler.                                               films are particularly a problem since they have begun
                                                            to degrade under UV radiation and can be
At the Missouri Botanic Gardens in St Louis a               contaminated with organic matter, soil and potentially
program has been developed so gardeners can return          pesticides. Washing is an option but only practiced
plastic to one of several retail nurseries. The plastic     by a limited number of recyclers and adds to the cost
is then transferred to the Missouri Botanic Gardens         of recycling. Because of impurities, the price offered
facility where it is sorted, cleaned and ground. This       for recycled plastic is often half of that for virgin
successful program has been in place for over ten           plastic. Lower grades of mixed plastics can be
years.     Recently, there have been some pilot             formed into timbers that are used for landscaping.
programs from some of the big-box retailers to collect
and recycle plastic containers and trays from
gardeners, which is very encouraging. I would love to
see something like this started here in Michigan.
Recycling Company                  Plastics Accepted and Conditions
Beta Plastics                      Plastics accepted – all types
Matt Bertotti                      Quantity – all quantities
1001 40th Street, S.E.             Cleaning – accepting only clean plastic
Grand Rapids, MI 49508             Comments – payments will depend on the material and quantity.
leehammond@bataplastics.com           Call for specifics
616 218-3769
E.R.A., Inc.                       Plastics accepted – LDPE
Greg Meuers, General Mgr.          Quantity – minimum of 42,000 pounds baled for loading on 53-
P.O. Box 167                          foot semi-trailer
Bowling Green, OH 43402            Cleaning – films should be as clean as possible – preferably less
www.envrecycle.com                    than 10% by weight
EnvlRecycling@aol.com              Comments – at this time, process capacity is limited; so, we are
                                      obviously going to "cherry pick" the supply. We will offer pick
                                      up service, and can offer baling service on site for a fee. To get
                                      started, photos of product, with descriptions are requested.
East Jordan Plastics               Plastics accepted – HDPE, PP and HIPS, all types of old pots and
East Jordan, Michigan                 pot tags, will consider LDPE (baled) greenhouse films (call)
Nathan Diller                      Quantity – Negotiable – but more is better. Will help to coordinate
Nathan@ejplastics.com                 multiple pickups from different growers – can usually arrange a
www.eastjordanplatics.com             pickup within 2 weeks.
                                   Cleaning – knock off excess dirt, but otherwise do not need to
                                      extremely clean, do not need to remove adhesive labels, if
                                      they can nest, they are clean enough, whitewash on LDPE ok
                                   Comments –Pots should be properly sorted, nested or stacked
                                      and palletized by plastic type. 8 ft high pallets are preferred
                                      over 4 ft because this will increase the net weight of the load.
                                      East Jordan plastics is developing increased capacity; working
                                      directly with several growers to set up new recycling
EcoQuest LLC                       Plastics accepted – PP PET PS HIPS PC ABS Pots, Trays
Carey J. Boote, David Dykstra      Quantity – 1000 pounds minimum for pick up
13650 172nd Ave.,                  Cleaning – light dirt, dust, no loose materials
Grand Haven, MI 49417              Comments – shipping and costs negotiable depending on types
carey.boote@gmail.com                 and quantities
616 296-0767
Forest Island Recycling, Inc.      Plastics accepted – LDPE and HPDE, perhaps others in future
Tony Joseph                        Quantity – call
Director of Marketing & Business   Cleaning – call
Development                        Comments –
3300 Denton Street
Hamtramck, MI 48211
Granger Recycling Center           Plastics accepted - LDPE, HDPE, PP and HIPS
Phil Mikus, Recycling Manager      Quantity – usually enough to fill a 53-foot semi-trailer
16936 Wood Rd.                     Cleaning – to be negotiated
Lansing, MI 48906                  Comments – not a recycler, but partners with end users for
www.grangernet.com                    special collection events
Green Processing Company Inc.      Plastics accepted – HDPE, LDPE, LLDPE, HIPS, PS, and PP.
Jeremy Berger                         Do not accept syrofoam.
Main Plant: 3766 Peter St.,        Quantity – prefer larger volumes but depends on situation
Windsor, Ontario N9C 1K2           Cleaning – in current economic climate, prefer clean plastic, but
Recycling Company                    Plastics Accepted and Conditions
Green Processing Company Inc.          willing to discuss options.
  (continued)                        Comments – films should be baled, balers are available at no
jeremy@green-group.ca                  cost; other plastics should be secured on pallets. Prefer to
www.green-processing.com               visit potential customers on request. Also accept a variety of
                                       non-Ag plastics.
Maine Plastics, Inc.                 Plastics accepted – HIPS plastic trays, LDPE films, call for further
David Kaplan                            information
1817 Kenosha Road                    Quantity – all quantities
Zion, IL 60099                       Cleaning – HIPS trays can have some dirt and water – but in the
847 379-9100                            current economic climate, best if clean. Greenhouse and
dkaplan@maineplastics.com               mulch films should be clean and dry.
www.maineplastics.com                Comments – also located in Schoolcraft Michigan.
McDunnough, Inc.                     Plastics accepted – actively seeking HIPS, LDPE (hoop house
Darren McDunnough, President, CEO       films), call on others
Material & Recycling Solutions for   Quantity – not specified, LDPE must be baled, stacked shrink-
Industry                                wrapped or otherwise secured to pallets
10732 Plaza Drive                    Cleaning – not excessively dirty
Whitmore Lake, MI 48189              Comments – can provide pickup – call to determine
Mondo Polymer Technologies           Plastics accepted – PE
Ronnie Wesel                         Quantity – any
27620 State Route 7                  Cleaning – trace
Reno, OH 45773                       Comments – can provide pickup – call to determine
Padnos Paper & Plastics              Plastics accepted – a variety but will depend on situation, call
Ben Westdorp, Scott Thompson         Quantity – call
Phone: 616-301-7900                  Cleaning – call
ben.westdorp@padnos.com              Comments – We can handle taking this material in different forms
www.padnos.com                          so I would prefer to be able to talk to the company directly as
                                        to their capabilities, volume and logistical issues. In most
                                        cases, there would be some revenue generated from these
Plaspro LLC                          Plastics accepted – HDPE, LDPE, PE
Syed Siraj                           Quantity – all quantities
3680 Suite 100 44th Street           Cleaning – should be relatively clean
Grand Rapids MI                      Comments –
616 446-6176
Polymer Solutions Inc                Plastics accepted – call
Tracy Beckwith, National Sales       Quantity – by the truckload only
Manager                              Cleaning – We have the ability to wash the film prior to
3384 Park Circle Drive                  processing it. However, we want the level of dirt to be as low
Kalamazoo, MI 49048                     as possible. The level of dirt and other contaminates will
www.polymer-solutions.com               determine whether we can use the material and what we can
                                        pay for the material.
                                     Comments – Plastic must be baled or boxed on pallets for
                                        loading with forklifts

List complied with the help of Tom Dudek (MSU Extensions) and Lucy Doroshko (Dept Environmental
Quality). If questions, contact the specific companies or Dr Art Cameron (cameron@msu.edu).

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