Life Cycle of Horticultural Film

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Horticultural Film, Recycling Life Cycle


This graphic illustrates the life cycle of horticultural film, with a focus on recycling. Horticultural films include several quite different products: mulch and fumigation films, low and high tunnels, greenhouse and hoophouse covers, irrigation tubes, bags for inputs and storage, and more. At this point in time, virtually all are recyclable, though each with some challenges. These challenges fall into one of three categories: (i) characteristics inherent to these plastics, (ii) characteristics of the products after use on farms and in nurseries, and (iii) cost and logistics of collection and transport from fields (or nurseries) to recycling markets. Recycling is a multi-stepped process that involves collecting used material, reclaiming it, and then manufacturing new products with the recycled content. Materials that enter the recycling stream are not fully recycled until they are made into something new. Thus simply hauling recyclables away from the farm (or other place where they were used) does not constitute recycling. The recycling life cycle involves users who separate recyclables from garbage, haulers who collect the recyclables, and reclaimers (also called processors) who do some of the following: clean, shred, compact, densify, pelletize, etc. Reclaimers will buy plastic recyclate from haulers only if they can sell their processed plastic to manufacturers who will incorporate it into new products. (To increase efficiency, improve the profit margin, and guarantee that they will have an adequate supply, many recycling companies carry out more than one of these recycling functions. They will, for example, both collect and process plastic, or process and also manufacture new products.) Very importantly, for recycling to be successful and sustainable over time, consumers—industrial and commercial buyers, government procurement offices, and individuals—must choose to buy products that are made with recycled content. Purchasing power is the fuel that keeps the gears of recycling turning.

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horticultural mulch; plastic mulch film; horticultural plastic; horticultural film; recycling; greenhouse cover


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