Agricultural Plastics Recycling
Plastic is commonly used in agriculture for many purposes, including irrigation, harvest, storage, transport, and sales, and is often preferred over more sustainable alternatives (like metal or wood) because it is often more cost-effective, lightweight, and versatile. Plastic materials can help advance on-farm conservation, such as through drip irrigation lines that reduce water usage and improve growing conditions using greenhouses or hoop houses.
As with many other plastic materials, much of the agricultural plastic is used only once and then disposed of, and recycling the material is not as easy as one would hope. Recycling agricultural plastics is challenging because they cannot be processed in the regular recycling stream, they tend to be dirty, and San Mateo County is a relatively small and isolated agricultural community that isn’t served by industrial recyclers.
In 2021 and 2022, the RCD helped producers in San Mateo County recycle approximately 55,000 pounds of plastics that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. As part of this project, the RCD:
- coordinated a pilot program that aggregated drip tape from 12 farms to be picked up by a specialized recycling company;
- worked with local waste management companies to test recycle other plastics, like bulb crates;
- provided technical assistance help producers identify what they could recycle and where to take it;
- conducted an assessment of opportunities to increase recycling of ag plastics in San Mateo County,
- and developed a handout for producers about recycling plastics.
If you have ag plastics, the RCD may be able to help you find a recycling solution.
Marine Sanctuary Foundation
San Mateo County Office of Sustainability
RCD Contact: Kasey Butler