Two not-for-profit recycling organisations and a Southland catchment group are reducing on-farm waste through a farm plastic recycling pilot scheme.

Agrecovery is working with the Between the Domes Catchment Group and Recycle South, a registered charity supporting intellectual disability, on a trial that aims to improve farmers’ recycling options in the Southland region.

Agrecovery commercial manager Richard Carroll said farm plastic recovery options needed to be compelling to get buy-in from farmers, and avoid the plastics being burned or buried.

“We need to provide them with better solutions.”

Southland was chosen as a pilot scheme region because of several factors, including Recycle South developing a new recycling plant, and the Between the Domes Catchment Group’s identification of bale wrap recycling as a priority project, he said.

“The community is realising that bale wrap and other farm plastics are a big issue that needs to be dealt with.”

Agrecovery is currently trialling a concept of free drop-off centres around the region at Northern Southland Transport premises in Te Anau, Mossburn and Lumsden. A further site has also been provided by Scullys Transport at Fertilizer NZ’s site at 21 Lady Barkly Road, near Winton.

Farmers can also take plastic bale wrap, silage covers and bulk bags directly to Recycle South’s plant at Makarewa. Bale wrap needs to be as clean as possible, and preferably colour sorted due to the product being returned to a plastic resin state. Silage covers are required to be cut into 3m lengths, before being taken for drop-off.

These sites collect this plastic for free for the duration of this trial, which will run until the end of August 2023.

Carroll said the project was testing the design and implementation in the Green-farms Product Stewardship Scheme (GPSS) report. The GPSS is expected to initially collect and treat the most voluminous farm plastics before expanding to cover all other farm plastics waste streams.

The catchment group had been leading the charge, talking to farmers about what could work, while Thriving Southland had also been instrumental in helping to co-ordinate the project, he said.

Catchment Group project leader Laurie Selbie said the trial was about assessing how farmers can get wrap off farm in the most cost effective manner. It was important that wrap was processed for re-use in New Zealand, as farmers wanted to take responsibility for their waste, he said.

The pilot was trialling the use of on-farm covered bins capable of holding large amounts of bale wrap that will be picked up regularly and trucked directly to Recycle South’s Makarewa plant, Selbie said.

The catchment group was proud to be a key partner in establishing the project alongside Agrecovery. Catchment groups could be an important catalyst for all rural recycling, and the expansion into a nationwide scheme, he said.

“Our focus is on being environmentally sustainable.”

Recycle South general manager Hamish McMurdo encouraged farmers to get their bale wrap in for recycling as soon as possible — and said they were welcome to drop it off at Recycle South’s new Makarewa plant, 210 Branxholme Makarewa Road.

“We want people to do the positive thing with their bale wrap, which will keep our community clean and free of this plastic and utilise the resource in a more circular fashion,” he said.

Agrecovery already provides agrichemical container recycling and chemical recovery for New Zealand farmers and growers. The brand owners that distribute agrichemical, animal health and dairy hygiene products pay the Agrecovery Foundation fees and levies to cover programme costs. This enables free access to programme users.

Selbie said he was hopeful a levy system for bale wrap could be developed, using some of the data obtained from the pilot programme.

Fonterra and some meat processing companies are also incentivising their farmers to recycle farm plastics, which is assisting to create a more sustainable primary industry in New Zealand.

The project is primarily funded through the Ministry for the Environment’s Plastics Innovation Fund with funding support from Farm Source, Farmlands, PGG Wrightson and Agrecovery.

(L-R) Between the Domes Catchment Group project leader Laurie Selbie, Agrecovery commercial manager Richard Carroll, Recycle South general manager Hamish McMurdo and Thriving Southland catchment co-ordinator Clare Officer check out recycled bale wrap.

About the Plastics Innovation Fund

The purpose of Te Tahua Pūtea mō te Kirihou Auaha –The Plastics Innovation Fund supports projects that will minimise plastic waste and its harm on the environment. The aim is to invest in projects that find ways to use less plastic and make what we do use reusable or recyclable. More information about the fund can be found on the Ministry for the Environment website (