The Agrecovery Rural Recycling programme has experienced unprecedented growth over the last two years, with collection of waste plastics reaching record levels.

Container plastic collected and sent for recycling by Agrecovery in the 12 months to June 2012 was 157,390kg.

“This represents growth of 30% over the previous twelve months,” says Graeme Peters, chair of the Agrecovery Foundation. “Combined with growth of 49% from the twelve months prior to that, we’ve nearly doubled the volume of plastic collected in two years. It’s a great result.”

The container recycling programme, which began in 2007, accepts plastic agrichemical, biological, animal health and dairy hygiene containers from 1 to 60 litres in size at more than 70 collection sites across the country. The empty triple-rinsed containers are then processed into underground cable covers here in New Zealand.

The Agrecovery Foundation is a not-for-profit charitable trust, with trustees representing Fonterra, Federated Farmers, Horticulture New Zealand, Agcarm and a local government representative. The programme is one of 32 internationally-recognised container recycling programmes which collectively recycle over 60,000 tonnes of containers and drums worldwide each year.

Though the growth in Agrecovery has been impressive, Graeme says it could still do better: “We certainly have a way to go to live up to New Zealand’s clean green image in many areas, but this is a great result after so short a period, and we’ll continue to encourage farmers, growers, contractors, and other users of agrichemicals to ‘rinse, return and recycle’ their containers through Agrecovery.

“The programme is straightforward, accessible and most importantly, free to use, plus it keeps unwanted plastic from being burnt or dumped – it’s a win-win situation.”

The parallel Agrecovery programme for collection of unwanted or expired agrichemicals also made steady progress this financial year with nine regional collections taking place, compared to seven collections in the previous 12 months. A total of 11,623kg were collected; 23% up on the same period last year.

“The importance of appropriate chemicals disposal was highlighted during a recent incident in Ashburton when livestock died as a result of being exposed to old chemicals stored in a farm shed,” says Graeme.

“With increasing scrutiny of agricultural and horticultural practices by our international markets, and pressure being placed on our “100% Pure” image, the importance of programmes like Agrecovery cannot be understated.”

The Agrecovery Wrap programme, which collects silage plastics and feed bags for recycling, also achieved record growth, with 241,000kg of plastic collected, compared to 117,700kg in the previous 12 months, an impressive 105% increase.

“We’ve really noticed a shift in attitude with the disposal of silage plastics during the last 12-18 months, with more and more farmers opting to recycle in preference to the damaging disposal options of burning or dumping,” says Duncan Scotland of Agrecovery programme managers 3R Group.

“With New Zealand farmers using enough silage plastic to circle the earth at least eight times every year, and even more in record grass growth seasons like we experienced last summer, there’s still a huge volume of feed plastic being poorly disposed of. However we’re very pleased to see a significant change occurring.”