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Disposable plastics are now integral to most farm operations in all sectors of agriculture. Plastics are replacing glass, metal, concrete, and ceramic because they cost less, increase production efficiency, and are safer. Disposal, however, is an unsolved problem. Some waste plastics are burned in open fires on-farm, plowed into fields, or pushed out of the way in piles. When burned, they can release dioxins and other pollutants, which then can enter the food system at the base of the food chain. When left in the field, plastics pose risks to livestock, create mosquito breeding habitat, and are an ugly detriment to agri-tourism. Recycling is rare, but new opportunities are emerging.

NEWMOA, through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service, conducted training and provided technical assistance to promote recycling of agricultural plastics in rural areas of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont during 2008 and 2009. NEWMOA contracted with Dr. Lois Levitan, Program Leader of the Cornell Environmental Risk Analysis Program and the Recycling Agriculture Plastics Project, for technical expertise on all aspects of the project. The aim of the project is to help rural communities in these four states reduce the amount of agricultural plastics being burned and buried on-site and entering the solid waste disposal stream. In 2007, NEWMOA formed a workgroup to provide oversight and assistance with implementation of the project. NEWMOA provided technical assistance and training for agricultural and environmental agency staff to work directly with farmers, including state agricultural, agricultural extension, farm bureau, municipal solid waste, and soil and water conservation district employees.

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Last Modified 03/31/2013

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