Grind it up

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More than 100 million pounds of plastic pesticide containers have been recycled in the United States since 1992, and Southampton County farmers lead the state’s endeavor.

To celebrate that significant achievement, the Ag Container Recycling Council (ACRC) will host a barbecue at the Southampton County Fairgrounds on Oct. 6.

“This is a big milestone,” Ronald Perkins, ACRC executive director, said about the nationwide mark. “If (the containers) were laid out end-to-end they would go around the equator.”

Farmers triple rinse the High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic agricultural and specialty pesticide containers and then bring them to the fairgrounds where Wes Alexander, an extension agent in Courtland, inspects them.

“We usually collect 12- 15 thousand pounds a year in Southampton County,” Alexander said. “It keeps the plastic out of a landfill and it is also the only legal means of disposing of these containers.”

Alexander is glad for the milestone recognition, but thinks local farmers are the ones who deserve all the credit.

“It’s an extra effort for them,” he said. “The general public has always had the opportunity to recycle. This gives the farmers an opportunity to do their part.”

The ground-up plastic is reused in products such as car stops, plastic lumber, plastic conduit and drain tile, Alexander said.

The fairgrounds is the largest collection site in the United States, according to information supplied by the ACRC. As part of the celebration, ACRC’s contractor U.S. Ag Recycling will grind more than 15,000 containers.

The barbecue lunch and program will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 6.

The state’s Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling Program has made a significant contribution to the one hundred million pound total, according to ACRC. Since it started in 1993, the program has recycled 853,730 plastic pesticide containers which weighed more than one million pounds.

The Virginia program is a cooperative effort among the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the Virginia Pesticide Control Board, Virginia Cooperative Extension and local governments. It is administered by local governments under national guidelines developed by the ACRC.