Agricultural Plastics Recycling

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This collection contains outreach resources and other materials developed and/or compiled by the Recycling Ag Plastics Project (RAPP), a Cornell-based collaborative promoting life-cycle stewardship of agricultural plastics.

More information is available at an archived version of Dr. Levitan's Cornell web page.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 45
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    Recycling Agricultural Plastics: What Have We Learned?
    Levitan, Lois (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, Cornell University, 2016-04-25)
    These are slides for a webinar organized by the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) and the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center (PARMC) as part of their Sustainable Materials Management Webinar Series, 2015-2016. The webinar is intended primarily for members of the recycling community—including recycling educators and organizers, solid waste and recycling businesses and agencies, plastics processors and manufacturers—who are considering becoming involved (or are currently involved) with collecting or processing agricultural plastics for recycling. After a quick introduction to the array of products called agricultural plastics, the presentation will go through the steps involved in processing these ‘difficult-to-recycle’ plastics, offering lessons learned from more than ten years experience promoting their recycling. Topics include: how to handle plastics on the farm to keep them in shape to recycle, equipment and approaches to compacting plastics for transport, criteria to use in selecting locations to consolidate and store baled plastic, cultivating and sharing information about processing markets, and applicability of models for extended producer responsibility (EPR). The webinar also unveiled groundwork being laid for a new agricultural plastics stakeholder organization, and the new website of the Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program: .
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    Using a BigFoot BF300 Baler
    Levitan, Lois; Leonard, Nate; Hartsuyker, Mark (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project, Cornell University and Recording Racoon Studio, Ithaca NY (, 2013-10)
    Video presentation of the Cornell Recycling Agricultural Plastic Project's guide to the operation of a BigFoot plastics compactor, which is a mobile baler designed for travel on-road and across agricultural fields. The BigFoot compacts loose plastic film into a dense bale approximately 40" on a side and ideally weighing 1000-1200 lb. These guides are detailed and reflect the experience of RAPP staff, but users should read and follow instructions in the manufacturer's manual.
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    BigFoot Plastics Baler: Dennis Sutton, Baler Developer, Describes the BF300 Model
    Levitan, Lois; Henry, Elizabeth (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project, Cornell University, 2010-05)
    Dennis Sutton, developer of the line of BigFoot mobile plastics balers designed for on-farm collection of agricultural plastics, describes features of the BF300 model and how it works. This particular machine was supposed to be sent to New York State for use by the Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, but because of seemingly interminable delays in funding, went instead to a rancher in Colorado. The balers that eventually came to NYS in late 2010 differed from this particular baler in small ways and were fabricated elsewhere. This interview was conducted by Lois Levitan at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, in February 2010.
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    Recycling Plastics Used in Agriculture
    Putman, Blake; Levitan, Lois; Henry, Elizabeth (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project, Cornell University, 2010-06)
    Blake Putman, field coordinator of Cornell University's Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project (RAPP), interviews dairy farmer Jim Putman and Clinton County, NY, Soil and Water Conservation District manager Steve Mahoney. The three give an overview of how plastic film is used on farms and the few disposal options once it is no longer usable. They describe the nascent recycling program that is a collaborative effort of RAPP, the Clinton County SWCD and other local agencies. An earlier version of this video was submitted to the Pepsi Corporation for a grant competition to fund the recycling program in Northern NY.
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    Agricultural Plastic Recycling Pioneer: Eugene Wright
    Levitan, Lois (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, Cornell University, 2011-10-31)
    Retired sheep farmer Eugene Wright from Homer, NY, tells how he started using plastic bale wrap in 1990 and saved the waste plastic from then until he retired in 2007, hoping that a recycling option would emerge. He did this on his own initiative, without encouragement from recycling markets (there were none) and without Best Management Guidelines for how to prepare plastic to be recycled. Such guidelines were not figured out until later. By the time the Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program gained steam and found a processor who was willing to recycle the plastic to make sidewalk pavers, Gene had amassed more than 60,000 pounds. But it wasn't all plastic: The top layers were washed clean by rain and looked sparkly white, but over time debris that adhered to the old bale wrap had mixed with the weeds growing through the piles and with the mud at the base. It was a mess and we never did find out how much of the 60,000+ pounds was polyethylene plastic and how much was what is called 'contamination' in recycling circles. Blake Putman began the job of baling the jumble of plastic and Nate Leonard completed it in 2011 with help from Gene and friends. The bales filled nearly two tractor-trailer loads that were shipped to Lehman & Sons, Indiana recyclers who began the process of transforming the waste plastic into new products, in this case Terrewalk sidewalk pavers produced by a small firm called TERRECON.
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    Levitan, Lois; Leonard, Nathan (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, Cornell University, 2016-02)
    El problema de los desechos plásticos preocupa a los finqueros hace años. Reciclar es una solución posible: permite conservar energía y recursos, ahorrar el costo de disponer de los desechos y es una alternativa legal a la quema de desechos al aire libre. Sin embargo, para ser sustentables, los programas de reciclaje deben ser eficientes. Como es costoso reunir y transportar el material para reciclar, los desechos voluminosos deben compactarse. Nadie quiere pagar para transportar aire. Este libro de instrucciones cuenta cómo usar una empacadora vertical BigFoot BF300 para compactar el plástico agrícola y obtener paquetes compactos y cuadrados que puedan apilarse prolijamente en el compartimento de un remolque y transportarse eficientemente a los mercados de reciclaje. Los mercados de reciclaje desean transportar cargas de un peso ideal a lo menos 40,000 libras. Esto equivale a unos 40 paquetes embalados con la empacadora Bigfoot, de más o menos 1000 libras cada uno. Translated from the English by Josefina Ianello and Lois Levitan.
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    Guide to Using the BigFoot BF300 Baler to Compact Agricultural Plastics for Recycling
    Levitan, Lois; Leonard, Nathan (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, Cornell University, 2014-10)
    This Guide explains in words and with more than 50 illustrations how to use a BigFoot BF300 vertical stroke baler to compact waste agricultural plastic into dense, square, stackable bales that fit neatly into the enclosed van of a tractor-trailer for efficient transport to recycling markets. The Guide elaborates on the manufacturer's manual, shares insights from RAPP staff following extensive use of the six balers purchased by the Program, and describes modifications RAPP made to the balers to compensate for problems encountered. Chapters include an introductory Chapter 1 - Why compact plastic?, Chapter 2 - Training Requirements in NYS, which--having been vetted by legal counsel from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation as well as Cornell University--may be useful to others as well, Chapter 3 - Overview of the BigFoot BF300, Chapter 4 - Preparing to Operate the BigFoot BF300, Chapter 5 - Start the Engine & Lower the Trailer Bed, Chapter 6 - Loading the Baler, Chapter 7 - Making a Bale, Chapter 8 - Finishing a Bale and Chapter 9 - Transporting the BigFoot BF300. Chapter 10, Guide to Using the BigFoot BF300 Baler: Maintenance & Troubleshooting was published separately in March 2014. The Guide is also available in a Spanish-language version as well as in DVD format and online on YouTube.
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    Agricultural Plastics Q & A
    Levitan, Lois (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, Cornell University, 2016-02)
    Asks and responds to questions, such as What are agricultural plastics?, What is plastic?, How is plastic film used on dairy farms and in horticulture? and What happens with agricultural plastics when they are no longer useful on the farm? Available as online FAQ, as a three-page Fact Sheet (pdf) and also as a series of nine 8.5″x11″ posters.
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    AGRICULTURAL PLASTIC PRODUCTS: Differentiating products by resin & color—Characteristics that matter to recyclers
    Levitan, Lois (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, Cornell University, 2016-02)
    Farmers and organizers of agricultural plastics recycling programs—the people who supply used plastics to recycling markets—should be knowledgeable and clear about what products they have and which resin(s) the products are made from. This two-page Fact Sheet includes a Table that lists agricultural plastic products alphabetically and identifies them by form (whether film, rigid or ‘other’), the resin typically used to make the product, and the usual color.
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    Agricultural Plastics in Pictures
    Levitan, Lois (Recycling Agricultural Plastics Program, Cornell University, 2016-02)
    Presentation slides with photos and brief descriptors of more than 30 agricultural plastic products. Intended to stand alone or be a pictorial companion to the two-page factsheet 'AGRICULTURAL PLASTIC PRODUCTS: Differentiating products by resin & color—Characteristics that matter to recyclers' .