AGRICULTURAL PLASTIC GROUND MULCH FILM AND IRRIGATION DRIP TAPE RECYCLED AT THE SALEM COUNTY IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY

The Salem County Improvement Authority has been recycling agricultural ground mulch plastic film and irrigation drip tape for Salem County farmers since 2010.  This material is used by farmers growing vegetable crops and it allows them to use fewer pesticides, herbicides and water by covering the plants early to prohibit weeds and direct irrigation to the plants roots. We are proud to note that we are the first and only landfill in the State to implement this program.

Before 2010, the materials were landfilled and delivered in roll-offs like a load of “plastic” bread that could not be moved easily or compacted.  The material prohibited rain water from leaching through the trash and would form “pools” where rain would sit in the landfill.  These pools of rainwater would then follow the path of “least resistance” and seep outside the landfill sides (resulting in odor issues) instead of being captured by the methane gas pipes which are located down inside the layers of trash.   The decision was made to stockpile this material to determine a quantity and find recycling avenues if possible.  “Recycling this material would eliminate odor issues, save landfill space and help to save the farmer expenses by keeping the tipping fee lower than traditionally landfilled materials”, stated Robert Widdifield, SCIA Chairman.   

The agricultural ground mulch plastic film and irrigation drip tape is the hardest of all plastics to recycle because of the dirt and organic matter that naturally adheres to this material when it is removed from the farmer’s field.  Establishing vendors and markets has been the biggest challenge because the material is so dirty.  A baler was purchased using funding from the 2009 Recycling Enhancement Act Grant, written and submitted to the NJDEP for approval.  The search for new vendors and markets is ongoing and The Salem County Improvement Authority has worked with both domestic and international markets.  “To date, 1,629 bales of this material have been recycled by outside vendors”, stated Julie Acton, SCIA Executive Director. 

This recycling project benefits the Salem County Improvement Authority Landfill by saving landfill space for materials that cannot be recycled and eliminates odor concerns caused by this material.  It also saves the Salem County farmers by keeping the tipping fee lower than traditional landfilled materials and provides additional return tonnage grant funding to Salem County Municipalities.  For more information, please contact the Salem County Improvement Authority’s Executive Director, Julie Acton at 856-935-7900 ext 15.