DAKOTA, Minn. - David Vanderzee and his family finally have a solution for the silage plastic they use on their 80-cow dairy in Winona County near Dakota, Minn.
They received a dumpster Dec. 19 from Revolution Plastics, a company based out of Madison, Wis., that offers free silage plastic recycling. Since first reporting about the service in Dairy Star in late October, the number of farms enrolled in the program has increased from 1,600 to 2,400.
"We continue to sign up new farms. I took a little break in the month of January due to weather and to catch up because we've been running wide open since June when we got this project off the ground," said Price Murphy, director of operations for Revolution Plastics.
If there is a large enough interest in the service in a specific area, Murphy will line it up with the farmers.
"When we set up drop spots, most of the time it is based on radius," Murphy said.
Many of the dumpsters are located in Wisconsin, although they are also located on farms in Iowa and Illinois. Minnesota farmers have also started to take advantage of the free service. Winona County most recently reached out to start the service for area farmers.
"When they reached out to me, they didn't have many signups - maybe two or four signed up. But a local coordinator did the work to get over 100 signed up and we were able to hold an event there," Murphy said.
In December, the company distributed 134 dumpsters to farms in Winona County - a single-day record for the organization.
"It really tells the tale of how far we've come," Murphy said. "The plastic was a much bigger problem than most people realized and there was much more of it than people realized. That was a lesson learned on the part of myself and all involved."
Vanderzee was one of the Winona County farmers who received a dumpster. All they had to do was pick up the dumpster on the designated day.
"It was a very simple process - 15 minutes maybe," he said.
Before this program, the Vanderzees were throwing away plastic from the 18 silage bags that are 18- by 200-feet long they have on their dairy.
"All the garbage went to Xcel Energy, so it went through an incinerator. The plastic wouldn't go through the incinerator so we had to be put on a special route," he said. "In a month's time our dumpster wasn't big enough to hold hardly the ag plastic plus our trash, so the dumpster was always full."
Now the Vanderzees can keep up with their garbage and maybe downsize their regular garbage dumpster to save money. Plus, Vanderzee said he likes knowing the plastic will be recycled.
"Instead of just throwing it in the corner or burning it, you're reusing it," he said.
The company will start distributing dumpsters again starting in February and expects to distribute 400 or more a month through the end of the year. Dumpster drop locations will be based on interest.
"We provide a free service to the farm so all the financial burden is on me, so I go where the interest is," Murphy said.
Central and southern Minnesota are two target areas for the company if enough farms want the service.
"Everything is going really well. The interest level has gone well. The farmer cooperative arrangement has gone really well. There's really been no issues," Murphy said.
To sign up for the program, farmers need to visit RevolutionPlastics.com or call a representative toll free at (844) 490-7873.