I have been excited about recycling and energy use since the ‘70s when I first started thinking about our planet’s limited resources during the energy crisis. I have always collected our household recyclables, driving them across St. Paul to the recycling center when living there in the ‘80s.
    Living on the farm makes recycling a way of life unless you want to light a lot of fires! There is a drop off for our house and farm recycling at a Tri-County collection dumpster a few miles down the road. Labels on most recyclable items explain how to do it. I also haul all the cardboard, plastic containers and even rinsed out colostrum bags to the recycling bin.
    Enter ag plastics. There is bunker plastic, ag film, ag bag plastic, bale wrap and more accumulating into big piles on most livestock farms. A simple Facebook post with a photo of the Revolution Plastics truck exiting our driveway after picking up our dumpster and our hay wagon full of stored recapture bags”generated excitement in the local dairy community. It seems several friends had been waiting for the truck to pick up the ag plastic on their dairies, according to comments on my post.
    I wanted to find out more and learned that the Tri-County Waste office in Nicollet/Blue Earth/Sibley counties had set up the program for ag plastic recycling in our area with the Revolution Plastics LLC company based in Arkansas.
    I researched the company on their website at https://revolutionplastics.com. It is a “revolutionary manufacturing, collection and recycling process that is an ongoing production and recycling process - a closed loop system.”
    Revolution Plastics recovers, cleans and processes over 150 million pounds of material per year and has diverted 1.5 billion pounds of plastic from landfills, turning them back into sustainable plastics to sell for consumer use, as explained on the website.
    A friend of mine who is in the metal recycling business had this to say, “I only know that the market for selling recycled plastics is tough. Step one is so expensive. Much like farming, recycling is more a labor of love than a monetary reward.”
    It goes without saying that the ag plastics collection on dairies has had a few hiccups or a learning curve along the way. Our 200-cow dairy which primarily uses bunker silos for forage storage generates a lot of plastic. When we first applied for the Revolution Plastics dumpster to be placed on our dairy, it was determined we were better qualified for the recapture bag collection program with the amount of plastic we would likely have in a year. The process to prepare the plastic was the same either way: It is laid out flat to dry, excess dirt and feed is swept off, then it is wadded up and shoved into the large bag or dumpster. It is not real easy or fun.
    We were eventually able to get the collection dumpster placed on our dairy early this spring. By then we had a hay rack full of recapture bags stuffed with plastic that had been accumulating since last fall. So when the truck finally arrived after a few requests for pick up, there was a nice collection of bags and a full dumpster. From the response to my Facebook posts, there were other area dairies waiting as well. We must have been an early stop on the local route.
    Where does the plastic go once it is collected? Price Murphy, director of operations for Revolution Plastics said in a recent interview in Plastics Recycling Update, “We collect items that we can wash, clean and turn into post-consumer resin and put back into our own facilities (at our Stuttgart, Arkansas processing plant) into our own products.”
    Lucas Sjostrom, executive director of Minnesota Milk provided some background: “Revolution, a subsidiary of Delta Plastics, expanded into southern Wisconsin in June 2016 and then into about 35 Minnesota counties thanks in part to a grant supplied by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency between the Recycling Association of Minnesota, Midwest Dairy, Minnesota Milk and several other partners. Unfortunately, as things got up and running, Revolution decided the amount of plastic collected in Minnesota was not enough to continue providing the service for free. Complicating efforts was the huge rise in transportation cost in the previous few years, and recycling markets in China being essentially shut down in 2017.”
    Some Minnesota counties have now contracted service for ag plastic recycling pickup with local haulers or Revolution themselves, as our local area has done. Other counties have chosen not to continue the service.
    To me, the process of collecting ag plastic helps to keep it out of landfills or from burning it on farm sites. It takes work and effort, but there is really no excuse not to recycle.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.