Agricultural plastics, such as the bags used for fertiliser, seed, and feed, as well as netting, silage wrap and twine, are next in line for an end-of-life makeover. An innovative project seeking to improve environmental outcomes has received government support for repurposing this plastic for farmers and growers.

Finding the best sustainable solutions for these plastics is at the core of the project run by rural recycling programme Agrecovery. The Ministry of the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund (WMF) is contributing $178,200 to the total project budget of $196,346.

This funding was approved by Eugenie Sage, Associate Minister for the Environment so that Agrecovery can sustainably divert more farm plastics away from harmful disposal practices.

The project will see the rural recycling programme work with industry associations, other recycling schemes, including Plasback, and the rural community to enhance product stewardship outcomes for farm plastics.

Agrecovery Commercial Manager Richard Carroll says that “the project will bolster existing recycling services for farmers and growers, like the ones we provide for agrichemicals as well as those provided by Plasback – for silage and bale wrap”.

“Supporting farmers to preserve the environment by offering alternatives to the harmful disposal practices of burning, burying and stockpiling of waste is vital for the future of New Zealand.

“It demonstrates that the government is committed to improving the environmental footprint of our rural communities,” he adds.

This follows Minister Sage’s recent announcement that all farm plastics sold in New Zealand will become priority products under the Waste Minimisation Act, requiring them to be part of a product stewardship scheme.

Product stewardship means that all the people in the supply chain – from manufacture through to final use – will be involved in the design and management of products to reduce harm and waste. This puts the onus on producers and consumers to take responsibility for any plastic packaging and left-over product.

The scope of this project includes, but isn’t limited to, to the following farm plastics:

  • plastic wrapping materials for silage or hay – including baleage wrap, hay bale netting, baling twine and covers for silage pits
  • plastic sacks for packaging agricultural and horticultural commodities – including, fertiliser sacks, feed sacks and bulk tonne bags of woven polypropylene and/or polyethylene

Research developed as part of the New Zealand Rural Waste Minimisation Project concluded that ‘on average, farms were producing nearly 10 tonnes of non-natural rural waste each year’ and that ‘burning, burial and bulk storage of waste on farms were the prevalent methods for managing waste’, largely due to the ‘limited service options available to farmers and growers’. This project attempts to solve this and will make recommendations on a preferred product stewardship scheme to the Ministry for the Environment.

The purpose of Te Pūtea Whakamauru Para – the Waste Minimisation Fund (WMF) is to boost New Zealand’s performance in waste minimisation. The WMF invests in infrastructure, services, and educational activity throughout New Zealand. The fund is enabled through the waste disposal levy under the Waste Minimisation Act.

There is considerable scope in New Zealand to reduce waste and increase the recovery of useful resources from waste. Lifting our performance in recovering economic value from waste also provides environmental, social and cultural benefits and reduces the risks of harm from waste.

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