Ag plastic recycling gets boost from Government investment

Two major grants have been announced in the wake of an announcement earlier this year by the Ministry for the Environment, declaring that all farm plastics sold in NZ will have to recycled or reused

Plasback now collects plastic twine from kiwifruit growers in the Bay of Plenty

One grant will help the on-farm plastic recycling scheme Plasback purchase baling and wrapping equipment so it can transport waste plastic more cheaply.

The other will help the rural recycling programme Agrecovery devise a scheme to collect farm plastics that are currently uneconomical to recycle. These include fertiliser sacks, feed sacks, and bulk tonne bags of woven polypropylene or ​​polyethylene.

Now that the Ministry has decided that all farm plastics sold in New Zealand will become priority products under the Waste Minimisation Act, they will have to be covered by a product stewardship scheme.

This means everyone in the farm plastics supply chain – from manufacturers through to consumers – will be responsible for recycling leftover plastic products and plastic packaging.

Whangarei eng​​ineers Pioneer Group custom-built three balers for Plasback

Plasback manager Chris Hartshorne says the ministry of the environment’s COVID Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) is donating $442,000 to improve its collection efforts and Plasback will match this amount.

“We will use the $884,000 to buy three new purpose-built balers, five stationary wrappers, and three telehandlers. Our balers compact the waste plastic so it can be shipped efficiently for reprocessing.

“We will install one baler in Northland, one in the Bay of Plenty, and one in South Canterbury. The reason we need them is that it costs too much to ship unbaled plastic long distances.

“For example, we now ship loose plastic from Northland to Matamata, where it’s baled, but this is inefficient. With a baler in Northland, we will be able to reduce the number of trips we make to Matamata by 75%.”

Chris says these efforts are aimed at keeping the cost of collecting plastic from farms as low as possible. The collection fee Plasback charges to collect used silage wrap from the farm gate has not changed in 14 years.

“More and more companies recognise the value in being part of an accredited recycling scheme. Silage wrap suppliers Grevillia Ag and Nutritech have now joined Plasback. This means they can support their customers’ efforts to recycle their waste plastic.

“We have also had requests to collect plastic from a brewery in Northland, a scaffolding company in Dunedin, and manufacturing companies. We’re now collecting lots of plastic twine from kiwifruit growers.”

Agrecovery commercial manager Richard Carroll says the WMF is contributing $178,200 so that Agrecovery can develop a preferred product stewardship scheme for farm plastic for the Ministry for the Environment.

“This project will bolster existing recycling services for farmers and growers, like the ones Agrecovery provides for agrichemicals and Plasback provides for silage and bale wrap.”

Richard says there’s considerable scope to reduce waste and increase the recovery of used resources. Recovering more waste will provide environmental, social, and cultural benefits.

Often farmers burn or bury waste on-farm because other options are limited. Agrecovery will make recommendations on a preferred product stewardship scheme in regards to products that are not currently covered by a recycling scheme.  

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