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Published: 2003-09-10 00:00:00

Solutions for managing unwanted farm plastics will be trialled in the Waikato this year.  

Research by a project team looking into the sustainable management of unwanted agrichemicals and farm plastics, found that on-farm solutions like burning or burying were worse for the environment than taking the plastics to a collection facility. Plastics include triple rinsed agrichemical containers and silage wrap.

Even diesel used by a tractor to dig a hole to bury the plastic generated more harmful emissions than diesel used to transport the plastics to a collection facility. Air quality was badly affected by both burning and burying, compared to other options.

Project Manager Sandy Scarrow said the team could confidently say it was environmentally better that farmers and growers took unwanted farm plastics to a collection point for landfilling rather than dispose of them on-farm. Recycling into products that replaced those made from ‘virgin’ plastic rather than wood had the greatest environmental benefit.

The project team has just finished its first year of work, forming ideas on running a national scheme for environmentally sustainable management of plastic waste. The ideas will be piloted in the Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury.

“The working group was keen to get the research done to determine what was the best outcome for the environment, what strategies have worked either here or overseas, how much these strategies might cost to implement and who should pay.”

On-farm burning was the cheapest option while on-farm burial was one of the most costly disposal options. More funding was needed for recycling to be economically sustainable.

The plastics New Zealand was dealing with were easily recycled, but the problem was contamination, she said.

“Farmers and growers are being urged to triple rinse or pressure rinse their agrichemical containers and shake as much contamination as possible off their silage wrap.”

Striking a levy on agrichemicals and silage wrap – used overseas - was being considered to help support recycling, New Zealand Agrichemical Education Trust Peter Ensor said.

“We just need to work through the relevant legislation in New Zealand to institute a levy here.”

Overseas models that could be appropriate for New Zealand included DrumMuster, (www.Drummuster.com.au), and the EcoRecycle silage wrap recycling programme (www.ecorecycle.vic.gov.au). Minor alterations would be made for trialling in New Zealand.

The project team is providing information to farmers and growers to ensure that less product becomes unwanted and that it is disposed of appropriately, either on farm or using a specialised service provider.

Environment Waikato Councillor Stephen Osborne said a solution to the growing problem of plastic on farms would be welcomed by farmers.