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Agricultural plastic can now be recycled in Franklin Co.

July 27, 2011
By RICHARD GAST , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, in cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, will be offering an informative demonstration of the Big Foot plastics baler, which can compact piles of discarded agricultural plastic (bale wrap, silage bags, bunker covers) into neat, stackable bales ready for shipment to recycling markets.


Date: Friday, Aug. 12

Time: 5:30 p.m.

Location: Franklin County Fair in Malone


The demonstration will be followed by a 30 minute in-depth training in baler operations and safety.

In accordance with the Cornell University New York State Recycling Ag Plastics Project, farmers and others interested in using the Big Foot baler on their farms or in their communities must attend a training session of this type and sign a trainee release form before the baler can be used.

The Cornell Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project works closely with County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations, and other partners to implement plastic recycling across New York state. Most of the state's Big Foot balers were purchased by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for use in conjunction with RAPP. A few are privately owned by County SWCDs.

Traditionally, tower silos made of steel or concrete were used to store forages and grain. Today, plastic film is widely used to improve or replace these older storage systems. And, because of the flexibility of the storage and marketing options associated with plastic films, there is no doubt that their use will continue to grow.

Farmers now commonly store hay and high-energy corn silage in bunkers, with the excess stored in piles. The forage is immediately covered, usually with 6-mil plastic, sealed tightly over the pile. Tires are then placed on the plastic to hold it securely in place and prevent spoilage from exposure to air. This method offers a comparatively inexpensive approach to storing forage, especially short-term.

Storing and preserving silage in plastic bags is becoming more widely used, as well. This relatively new method can be tailored for use with any size herd. And many farmers believe that utilizing plastic bags, some as large as 300 feet or more in length and 8 to 12 feet in diameter, provides the safest, most affordable option, especially when compared to purchasing equipment outright.

Many farms have also moved from square hay bales to large round bales, which save time and labor. Round bales, however, are not nearly as suited to barn storage as square bales, and are often stored outdoors, where exposure to weather and water penetration can greatly reduce feed value (palatability and digestibility). In fact, when stored on damp soil, deterioration at the bottom of the bales can be substantial. To reduce outside storage losses, round bales are covered with solid polyethylene sheeting or individually wrapped. Plastic-covered post and beam or frame structures are sometimes constructed as temporary storage buildings, as well.

The use of plastics in horticulture has increased considerably in recent years, too. Plastic film is used in constructing greenhouses, high tunnels, low tunnels, and row covers, all of which are used to lengthen the growing season, minimize the effects of extreme weather events on crops, and improve productivity by optimizing plant growth and development in protected environments. Plastic film is also increasingly being used as a mulch, to increase the earliness, yield, and quality of crops like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Drip irrigation tape is made of plastic too, as are pots, planters, cell packs, trays, and fertilizer and pesticide containers. The tubing used in maple sap collection is made of plastic, also.

Unfortunately, all of these plastics have no widespread secondary on-farm use, which means that they often end up buried on the farm somewhere, which can contaminate ground water, especially when crop material becomes trapped in the plastic. Current DEC regulations prohibit burning of any plastics (or other non-organic trash).

If you would like to learn more about the Franklin County agricultural plastic recycling program and/or attend the Aug. 12 plastic baler demonstration and/or training, please contact Franklin County SWCD Manager, Chastity Miller (518-483-4061 or by email at or me, Extension Educator Richard Gast (518-483-7403 or by email at

Advance registration is greatly appreciated. For information on other Big Foot plastic baler demonstrations and trainings, contact Nate Leonard (607-216-7242,



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