Plastic disposal dilemma

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Rick Powdrell said farmers were concerned about pickups and the increased expense of recycling. Photo / John Borren
Rick Powdrell said farmers were concerned about pickups and the increased expense of recycling. Photo / John Borren

Agrecovery will exit the silage recycling market at the end of the month - but questions have been raised about the increasing cost for farmers to keep it green.

Plasback would step up its presence in the Bay of Plenty and collect plastic, but, there had been issues and was now in catch-up mode.

Agrecovery chairman Graeme Peters said rising transport costs, ongoing contamination issues and the lack of local recycling solutions meant its service was not viable under present market conditions.

But it would continue its core programmes that focused on the recovery of containers and waste chemicals, which was experiencing rapid growth, he said.

Silage covers could also be recycled.

During the past financial year it collected 36,000kg of silage plastics and other films from the Bay of Plenty.

Plasback manager Chris Hartshorne said Agrecovery's departure from farm plastic recycling would not reduce the amount collected nationally and should make the initiative more efficient.

It collected three times more plastic annually and increasing volumes were not an issue.

However, it had struggled getting the wrap off farms, he said.

"We are doing this on the back of a very busy silage summer last year. The contractors I worked with were not able to get out and do the pickups in the summer time so they are really ramping it up and doing it now."

Plasback was coming to the end of its financial year and would top more than 1200 tonnes of plastic waste collected nationwide.

But there was more work to be done in the Bay of Plenty, he said.

"We do collect a bit of stuff out of the Bay of Plenty as well but it tends to be more vine nets."

A recent report on non-natural farm waste in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty region that was a follow-up to the same survey in Canterbury last year, produced shocking results, he said.

"They wanted to validate the data and it has come up with the same kind of horror stories on what farmers are doing. "

At the moment it was collecting 30 per cent of the silage film on the market so there was still a long way to go, Mr Hartshorne said.

Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provincial president Rick Powdrell said farmers were concerned about pickups and the increased expense of recycling.

"I've had some discussions with the farmers in recent weeks there has been issues with pickups. There are a number of farmers in the Bay of Plenty sitting on a lot of bagged up wrap that hasn't been collected from contractors.

"The other issue that a number of farmers have made to me is that it has got more expensive."

The holder and the bag that held the waste wrap cost money with added costs per bag to be picked up from contractors, Mr Powdrell said.

"So where those costs were actually relatively minimal they have increased to a level where it's more significant."

That could put farmers off, he said.

"Unfortunately now some people are starting to think 'is this actually economic?"'

Welcome Bay dairy farmer Andrew McLeod recycled his silage wrap because it was the right thing to do for the environment.

It was a shame there was not a bigger market for recycling products and no incentives were offered to get more farmers to do it, he said.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council senior communications officer Linda Thompson said it was illegal to burn silage and bale wrap under Rule 5 of the Regional Air Plan.

User pays initiatives supported

Plasback manager Chris Hartshorne believes voluntary, user-pays recycling initiatives are more effective than government mandated systems based on levies.

"We know that voluntary recycling programmes, such as Plasback, are cheaper to run and more effective than systems that apply a levy on to the cost of the product. We hope farmers continue to support voluntary recycling because we don't want to see mandatory schemes put in place," Mr Hartshorne said.

For more information or to book on-farm collection visit www.plasback.co.nz.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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