Delta Poly Plastics Inc., a blown film producer and recycler, is ramping up its recycling operations after updating machinery. The Stuttgart, Ark., company began recycling agricultural tubing in 1993, but shut down its post-consumer operations in 1994 to install a pre-wash machine, an inside wash system and other proprietary machinery. During that time, Delta Poly recycled industrial film, said Joe Alexander, sales manager.
Since restarting post-consumer operations in December, the company has processed 4 million pounds of tubing, much of it collected before the shutdown.
``Recycling is not just a marketing tool; it's imperative for us to do it,'' Alexander said. ``The manufacturers must take care of it before the government steps in to regulate.''
The white, flexible low and linear low density polyethylene tubing farmers use for irrigation is collected in 35-40 counties in Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Transfer stations and landfills in those counties are working with Delta Poly to collect the tubing in rolled form.
In that form, the company is able to prewash the tubing, which often is heavily contaminated. Alexander said the washing helps remove such things as dirt, iron oxide and twigs, as well as frogs and an occasional skunk. In a closed-loop system, the tubing is recycled into pellets that are sold to bag manufacturers.
The Cooperative Extension Service in several counties is helping with the collection effort by educating farmers and convincing elected officials of the need for transfer stations. Legislation to reduce solid waste 30-40 percent is a tax incentive for some counties, Alexander said.
With 12 million to 16 million pounds of tubing used per year and growing 20 percent each year, farmers do not want to see it outlawed, he said.
``Already there's a tipping fee of $30 per cubic yard at landfills, and some won't accept [the tubing] at all,'' he said.
Through advertising, education and basic awareness, 30-50 percent of the farmers in the targeted counties are participating in recycling. Delta Poly expects to collect 3 million to 4 million pounds this year and can recycle as much as 750,000 pounds per month.
``In the future, we'd like to pick up large numbers of rolls directly from the farmers,'' Alexander said.
Delta Poly makes about 750,000 pounds of irrigation tubing and construction film per month. The company would not release its 1995 sales figures.