by CHRIS ROGERS
“Someone should have thought of this 10 years ago,” Brad Meyer said as he strapped down a pair of big, white dumpsters to his flatbed trailer. The dumpsters are for “ag bags” — big sheets of plastic used to wrap hay bales or to cover bunkers full of silage. On many farms, plastic wrap replaced silos and hay lofts long ago as the best way to store feed, but there has never been a good way to dispose of the plastic. Many farmers use a lot of it, and paying for the voluminous plastic to be hauled away as trash is pricey. Illegal burning of the plastic is common, several local farmers said.
Farmers, county officials, and Winona County Sustainability and Recycling Coordinator Anne Morse have been thinking about it for years, and searching for a company willing to recycle ag bags. Earlier this year, they finally found one, and last week the company handed out dumpsters to Winona County farmers. Arkansas-based Revolution Plastics will send trucks to participating farms, pick up used ag bags from the dumpsters as often as needed, and turn them into recycled-plastic trash bags. It is all free to farmers and to the county.
“Someone is going to take our plastic for free?” Meyer recalled thinking when he heard about it. That sounded like a good deal.
Meyer was not alone. Trucks were backed up on the Stone Point Road in a line a couple hundred feet long, as other farmers waited to pick up their own white dumpsters. Last Wednesday, Revolution Plastics handed out 140 dumpsters to more than 130 famers, according to director of operations Price Murphy. He looked up from a clipboard between trailers. “The turnout has been great,” he said. The company has been recycling agricultural plastics in the south for years and started collecting bunker and bale covers in Wisconsin a couple years ago. Winona County is one of the company’s first forays into Minnesota, and last week’s pickup set a company record for the most dumpsters distributed in a single day.
Wyattville-area farmer Allyn Ellinghuysen was glad to have a affordable way to properly dispose of the plastic wrap he uses for bale covers. “Otherwise it either ends up in the ditch or it’s burned,” he said.
Being able to finally divert all that plastic away from the landfill or from illegal burning and toward recycling was a major victory in Morse’s eyes. To do it at no cost to farmers or taxpayers was even better. “This is so amazing. I don’t think I could have even imagine a program as good as this,” she said.