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 clothing. 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. films. 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. Contamination 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. firstname.lastname@example.org 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 opportunities. 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com www.mcdunnough.com 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 740-376-9396 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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 materials. 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 – firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (email@example.com).
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