Agricultural Plastics: What are they? Why are they ‘hard stuff’? Can the challenges be surmounted?

Slides from a presentation to the March 2014 Plastics Recycling Conference, Session  The Hard Stuff: Recycling Film, Foam and Other Difficult Plastics, which took place in Orlando, FL.
Illustrates in 15 slides the array of agricultural plastic products, the plastic resins they are made from, and qualities and practices that increase suitability for recycling.


Outlines reasons that agricultural plastics have been difficult to recycle:
  • often contaminated with more soil, moisture, etc. than typically permissible for recyclable materials
  • possibility of contamination with equipment-damaging grit, gravel and rocks
  • perception or possibility of contamination with pesticide residue &/or with soil pathogens and weed seeds
  • expense of collecting bulky material dispersed across the rural landscape, which takes longer and costs more than collecting waste plastic neatly contained within a factory or store
  • agricultural plastics are often dark colored or a mix of black and white, which process into a muddy gray
  • products may be an unidentified mix of different plastic resins and additives. Plastic films are increasingly complex, often made with multiple extrusion layers to meet specific technical criteria.

Describes with examples how these challenges are being overcome with advances in equipment, new approaches to reclamation, and processors willing to take on the challenge of even the most difficult of agricultural films.

[Filename: Levitan-PlasticsRecycling2014March11.  pdf]