Recycling programmes making big dent in farm waste

Written by Piers Fuller. 

While burning and burying rubbish on farms is not going to stop any time soon, programmes to divert plastic waste are making significant inroads

More than 800 tonnes of plastic chemical containers are created on New Zealand farms every year, and almost half of it is now recycled responsibly by Agrecovery.

General manager of the non-for-profit charitable trust Simon Andrew said farmers and growers are keen to do the right thing but they need avenues to do so.

"They want a seamless approach to rural waste ... so they can get rid of a variety of different waste streams all at the same time."

Seventy manufacturers have agreed to pay Agrecovery a levy that covers the collection and recycling of containers and chemicals.

More than 300 tonnes of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic was recycled through the programme last year, which was then made into products such as electrical insulation.

Federated Farmers hazardous substances spokesperson Guy Wigley said farmers are acutely aware of the importance of not contaminating their own properties and will re-use and recycle where possible.

"Farms are a working environment and they need to be kept clean and tidy. Some things cannot easily be reused or recycled," he said.

"In the absence of other practical and affordable options, farmers may end up burning, burying or stockpiling waste on their land."

Another waste stream that creates an enormous amount of unwanted plastic is used feed bale wrap.

Accredited voluntary product stewardship programme Plaswrap recycles about 2000 tonnes of plastic every year, most of which is bale wrap.

Programme manager Chris Hartshorne said the scheme came about in response to farmers, who used the wrap created by parent company Agpack, asking for help in disposing of their plastic waste.

They have had great uptake from environmentally-conscious farmers but there was a significant portion who remained harder to convince.

"It's very easy to capture the first 25 per cent. There are farmers out there who don't mind what it costs, they don't want to burn it and don't want to bury it on their farms, but getting the next 25 per cent is a little bit harder," Hartshorne said.

"We do see the scheme is not growing as fast as it was originally."

They estimate that currently 30 per cent of all plastic wrap used by farmers is coming back through the recycling scheme.

Plasback charges $40 per bale for disposal.

Plasback also recycles other plastic items such as polypropylene bags and twine as well as some high density plastic drums. The recycled material is made into plastic bags and building products.