Marshmallow Mountains Present Problems for Farmers

It’s no secret farms alike have been long asking themselves the question of ‘what to do with the accumulating pile of bale plastic behind the barn?’  It has been approximated that Ontario farmers use about 10 million pounds of bale wrap each year.  Bale wrap is a brilliant solution to preserving ones hay crop over the winter months without the expenses of putting up a new building.  Many farmers have bought into this product because of its effective usage and reliability.  The question is now what are farmers to do with the increasing mountainous piles of plastic?  Blue box programs will not accept it, it costs extra money to bring to a landfill site and burning is illegal.  But for farmers in southwestern Ontario a possible solution exists.  Think Plastics Inc. has approached farmers and set up numerous drop off locations for the collection of the reused round bale plastic.  The company utilizes the material and produces Baleboard, a durable plastic lumber product.

The idea is superb, but like any new company trying to start off they have come across a few bumps in the road.  Problem number one is that presently supply of the bale plastic is much greater than the demand for the product.  Consumers need to be better educated as well, to know that the plastic lumber is just a durable as wood and can be used for barn flooring, horse stables and fencing.  Marketing strategies need to be applied to get the product out onto the market as the new ‘green’ alternative to lumber.

Think Plastics Inc. has put forth a great program and realistic solution to the bale wrap issue.  I was very shocked to read that there has been no interest in research from Canadian companies or universities into possible alternative uses for recycled bale plastic.  Personally I think that since the University of Guelph is know for it’s extensive research in agriculture, they would have hopped on the wagon and been at the fore front of this situation!  Society seems to be constantly moving to a more ‘green’ and sustainable attitude towards everything from toilet paper to cars.  Developing new products from recycled bale plastic capitalizes on a what I would see to be an up and coming niche market.

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3 thoughts on “Marshmallow Mountains Present Problems for Farmers

  1. Owen says:

    The University of Guelph is indeed known for extensive agricultural research. Maybe this opportunity needs to be brought to the attention of someone in bioplastics developments, such as Prof. Amar Mohanty. Who would take a lead in doing so? AGCARE, perhaps?

    Or maybe this should be a student initiative. A few years ago Guelph students found a way to compress chicken feathers into building materials. They entered a competition called Creative Recycling and placed among the top three. That competition no longer exists, but maybe a recycling initiative such as the one being described here could be rolled into something called Project SOY, if indeed a way could be found to combine bale plastic with biomass, such as soy straw. See me for details if you are interested in taking this forward.

    • I think your idea is a great one Prof. Roberts. I was quite intrigued in learning about bale plastics and was completely surprised to learn that the University was not involved at all. I think that if the appropriate time and consideration was taken that a team of students could take on the challenge. A competition such as project soy would be a great candidate for developing some new products that would assist in recycling the used bale plastic! The company that I mentioned does have a good grasp of what to do with the material, but who’s to say that it is the best way to recycle the plastic? I really hope that eventually there will be some interest in developing new technology to help assist in the clean up of bale plastic on farms. I found this article quite interesting as the same problem of piling plastic has happened on my home farm.

  2. Kristen, if you are intrigued about Project SOY, please contact student coordinator Tara at soybeans@uoguelph.ca. I think you’d enjoy getting involved. It doesn’t take up too much time and the prize money is great!

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