In an effort to promote environmental stewardship and sustainable operations, the Three Rivers Park District is now using trash bags made with recycled agricultural plastic from Minnesota farms.
The park district collects more than 500 tons of trash a year, which results in the use of approximately 33,000 trash bags annually.
“Reusing agricultural plastic in the form of recycled trash bags is one way the Park District can reduce its carbon footprint and be more sustainable because we aren’t always buying bags from newly-produced plastic,” said Brian Brown, senior manager of parks and trails maintenance.
Minnesota has more than 460,000 dairy cows, and is the seventh largest dairy state in the U.S. Estimates show the amount of agricultural plastic attributed to each dairy cow is 15– 20 pounds per cow /per year. In addition, Minnesota is home to an estimated 2,420,000 beef cattle each generating around 8-10 pounds per year.
Virtually none of this plastic was recycled until now. Farmers had no options but to send it to a landfill, burn or bury the materials.
In 2014, the Recycling Association of Minnesota began working stakeholders to bring a more environmentally and economically sustainable option to farmers. They also worked with boat dealers and marinas, who were also facing growing amounts of plastic film waste.
In October 2016, the Revolution Plastic Company joined with the RAM stakeholder group, bringing their program for recycling these waste agricultural plastics to Minnesota. Depending on farm location and plastic use, Revolution Plastics spots and empties dumpsters on farms or dairies at no cost to the farmer. There are now at least 1,110 of these dumpsters on farms in Minnesota, collecting 300,000 pounds of waste plastic weekly.
This plastic is delivered to the Revolution Bag Plant in Arkansas, where it is cleaned, shredded, pelletized and remanufactured into garbage can liners such as those used at the park district.
When organizations like Three Rivers use these bags, they are not only saving money, but are creating a market for the bags which helps to assure that there will be a continued demand for the used agricultural plastics generated on Minnesota farms. According to Brita Sailer, RAM’s executive director, “This is recycling at its best, providing an economically, environmentally sustainable solution to one of Minnesota’s waste challenges.”