Progress has been slow, but University of Wisconsin Extension ag engineer Brian Holmes remains confident that new opportunities for recycling the plastic used by dairy producers to preserve feed are on the horizon.
“There have been a series of starts and stops on the collection and processing side,” Holmes says. “But we’ll eventually get to the point where hauling waste plastic film to the landfill and paying tipping fees isn’t the only legal option farmers have.”
As more recycling opportunities emerge, dairy farmers will need to develop a new mindset for handling the plastic materials. A major point to keep in mind: Recyclers want the plastic delivered to be as clean (read: dirt- and debris-free) as possible.
High and dry. Storing silo bags on concrete, asphalt or gravel is the surest route to keeping plastic relatively clean of soil. “There can be some other benefits in terms of preserving silage quality and minimizing feed losses,” Holmes points out. For bags stored directly on a soil surface, producers can head off some headaches by choosing an elevated site with good drainage.
Once the plastic has been used, the focus shifts to keeping discarded material clean, dry and in place until it’s hauled to the recycling center. Options vary by available on-farm resources and management preferences.
Holmes and his colleagues recently built a steel cage that allows plastic from silo bags and bunker covers to be compressed, using a front end loader, and tied into a bale.
Other options include a hayrack, trailer bed or plastic containment pens constructed with plastic fencing, hog or beef panels or pallet bins. “If you opt to store the used plastic on the ground, you’ll have to handle it again when it’s time to haul it to the recycling center,” Holmes notes. “If you’re storing it outside, you’ll want to weight it down so that it doesn’t blow around in the wind.”