Farmers and growers are proving their worth as good stewards of the land, by achieving record-breaking volumes of plastic recycling through the rural recycling programme, Agrecovery.
The past year has seen a 43 per cent increase in rural plastic coming back for recycling at Agrecovery's sites, events and via on-farm pick-ups. The staggering 437 tonnes of plastic containers collected over the past year is now being given new life.
"This is a massive leap from the 320 tonnes collected the previous year," says Agrecovery general manager Simon Andrew.
"The figures show that we are now recycling more than half of the agrichemical containers and drum plastic sold in the New Zealand market," he says.
Those manufacturers who participate in the programme pay a voluntary levy to support the recycling of the containers and recovery of any end of life product — at no cost to the farmer.
"We take our hats off to all those farmers and growers that have been making the most of our recycling programme," says Simon.
"They should be commended for taking the time and effort to triple-rinse containers and bring them in for recycling.
"Like most consumers, farmers and growers are often left with plastic packaging and they don't want it to end up in landfill or release emissions by burning it. They are motivated to do the right thing — and the best thing is to turn it into a resource that doesn't get wasted," says Simon.
The plastic is shredded, cleaned and broken down into a resin before it is made into materials like cable cover and damp course — a building material to prevent rising damp. These products are then sold locally for New Zealanders.
"It's a great example of a circular economy," says Simon.
He says because the whole recycling process is done in New Zealand, fewer emissions are created compared to shipping the plastic offshore.
"We re-use the materials, and our programme has the added bonus of supporting the local economy. It's a win-win," he says.
This huge growth in recycling coincides with not just a national focus on waste, but a worldwide focus on the ethical and sustainable processing of many types of plastic waste.
"Our goal is to investigate broadening the types of plastics that can be recycled through our programmes and grow resourcing in New Zealand to repurpose this plastic and make it go another round," says Simon.
"Supporting farmers to preserve the environment by providing alternatives to the harmful disposal practices of burning, burying and stock-piling of waste is vital for the future of New Zealand.
"As a not-for-profit organisation, we are ideally suited to lead the charge on this and provide solutions for our farmers and growers in their role as kaitiakitanga — being good stewards of the land."