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Grant allows startup of recycling for agricultural, pellet-bag plastic

Plastic-covered rolls of cut hay, like the ones seen above, can soon be recycled with help from a $60,960 state grant awarded to the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District.  (Recorder file/Geoff Bluh)

Plastic-covered rolls of cut hay, like the ones seen above, can soon be recycled with help from a $60,960 state grant awarded to the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. (Recorder file/Geoff Bluh)

Got plastic?

Specifically, plastic bags from wood pellets, hay bale or greenhouse covers or maple sugaring tubing? They can soon be recycled with help from a $60,960 state grant awarded to the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District.

The grant is one of seven Community Innovation Grants awarded totaling over $720,000 and involving Franklin County towns as part of a $4 million program to support regionalization efforts statewide.

The recycling project will be used to help the 22-town member district recycle agricultural plastics and residential wood-pellet bags by allowing building of sheds for each of the transfer stations in the towns, and possibly to buy a refurbished compactor for bale wrap, according to district Administrator Jan Ameen.

Starting as early as March, the grants will allow the casings of large white “marshmallows” seen on many Franklin County farms to be collected, along with plastic irrigation tape, and plastic pipeline and tubing, as well as pellet bags, depending on how fast they can be purchased and put in place, said Ameen.

“People are really excited around the county, and also at the state level” at the prospect of being able to find someplace for those plastics other than trash Dumpsters, which costs farmers money.

The grant will also pay for a refurbished compactor for the bale wrap, said Ameen, and it will pay for a hauler to collect the pellet wrap and bring it to a central location. Farmers will asked to bring their recycled agricultural plastic to one of two or three drop-off points.

Last October, the district won grants to conduct three collection days for the materials at three sites. For more than a decade, Ameen has been looking for ways to get the materials recycled, and she spent months working with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture and UMass Extension, trying to find out how much material there would be and in what forms it would come in, tracking down a recycler, in Auburn, N.Y., who can turn it into “plastic plywood.”

She figures that each bale wrap is about five pounds of plastic and that about 22 tons worth are generated in this area each year. If even 10 percent of the plastic maple tubing and greenhouse film used around the county were replaced each year, that would be about 16.5 tons more plastic.

“When you think about how much is out there being landfilled, buried, or burned it seems critical to get a sustainable recycling program in place,” she says.

Some farmers have been setting their bale covers aside, ready to recycle, says Ameen. They’ve also been saving up their used tubing.

It’s usually the kind of plastic that Ameen says “typically nobody wants because it’s dirty.”

At the same time, anyone who used wood pellets to heat their homes finds themselves with hundreds of empty plastic bags each year, which they’ll finally be able to recycle, once the district orders the sheds and arranges for the materials to be hauled away.

www.franklincountywastedistrict.org

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

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