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UMaine Cooperative Extension brings back greenhouse plastic recycling program

The program was designed with the goal of reducing at least one-third of Maine's yearly greenhouse plastic waste.

MAINE, USA — The University of Maine Cooperative Extension brought back its Greenhouse Plastic Recycling, or GPR, program for a third year.

From now through Nov. 21, 13 locations across the state are collecting donations of old or unwanted plastic film used to cover agricultural structures like greenhouses, high tunnels, and hoop houses. 

All that's required is pre-registering your plastic drop-off ahead of time. 

Matthew Wallhead, assistant professor of horticulture  and ornamental horticulture specialist for UMaine Cooperative Extension, is one of the program's organizers. 

"It's been moderately successful as a pilot program," Wallhead said. "We've collected a little over a thousand pounds each year."

Wallhead said the goal is to grow the program into collecting tens of thousands of pounds of plastic every year, which could at least one-third of Maine's yearly greenhouse plastic waste.

Once the plastic is dropped off, it's then brought to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) building in Unity. The plastic is then compacted and sent out to another facility for recycling. 

"Throughout the pandemic especially, there's been a shortage of the resin needed to make plastics, so there's been a heightened focus on recollecting this material and finding other uses for it," Wallhead said.

The plastic must be low-density polyethylene #4 (LDPE #4) clear plastic. According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website, the film is typically 5 to 6 millimeters thick. Organizers ask that all donations are relatively clean and dry.

"Anything that we can do to recycle and be more sustainable and keep things out of the landfill is just a win-win," Hannah Carter, dean of UMaine Cooperative Extension, said.

Carter said the program is funded through a grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. 

"It's just a great opportunity to be reminded of something that I think we do most every day is really take that extra step to be kind to our great state," Carter said.

For more information about the program and how to prepare your plastic for drop-off, click here

For a list of drop-off locations across the state, click here

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