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What to do with ag plastic

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MONTICELLO, NY — Those huge plastic coverings that farmers use for bailing and storing hay are proving to be a bit difficult to get rid of.

Melinda Meddaugh, agricultural and food systems team leader at Sullivan County Cornell Cooperative Extension, reported to the Sullivan County legislature on November 10 that starting a program to help farmers recycle the “ag plastic” would be very expensive.

She said the county would have to consider coming up with some way to store it, because haulers would not take it until it reached a certain amount. She also said the county would have to make a large investment in new equipment, personnel and training.

Meddaugh said there is an ag plastic recycling program in Delaware County, but it’s not cost-effective. The county pays for the program with 2% dedicated from the county sales tax. She said Sullivan could not go into a partnership with Delaware, because it doesn’t accept material from outside the county, and such a move would necessitate a change to the Delaware County charter.

Legislator Mark McCarthy said he visited Delaware County and confirmed that the program was not cost effective and there’s not much of a market for the plastic.

Legislator Terri Ward said when she spoke to the county recycling coordinator Bill Cutler about establishing a program earlier this year, he said the cost would be a couple of million dollars to get started.

Legislator Nadia Rajsz said, “This plastic has to come from someplace, so the companies don’t take it back?”

McCarthy said, “It’s dirty, it costs too much to clean it.”

Solar questions

At the same meeting, Stephen Stuart of Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development gave an update on concerns that some people have expressed about large solar arrays as they are being planned and erected in the county.

He asked, “Do solar arrays generate electro-magnetic fields? The solar arrays themselves do not. Solar arrays convert sunlight into direct current (DC), which does not have any electro-magnetic force. When it is converted to alternating current (AC) at the inverter, you have an electromagnetic field that is a safe amount… as long as [the inverter] is placed outside of a building and not near a work station.”

Other questions: “Do arrays produce glare? Early on that was a factor, but as the industry has matured, glare has become a non-issue. The industry responded by slightly pebble-izing the glass so it has a matte finish, almost.

“Do the panels contain toxic materials which could leak or be spilled? No, they do not. Some of the materials used in the creation of the panels are toxic, some of the chemicals used to clean the silicon wafers, but those chemicals are not inside the panel; there is no liquid in the panel. The typical panel is a silicon-wafer panel, and the silicon wafer is a nontoxic substance. The types of panel that have a little more hazardous substance in them are the thin-film, and they’re a very flexible panel designed to be rolled out and fixed by adhesive to a metal roof.”

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