Making plastic waste useful again by collaborating with industry partners is the driving force behind a rural recycling programme’s success.

In the last year, Agrecovery recovered and recycled 308 tonnes of plastic that might otherwise be burnt, buried or dumped – “that is enough solid plastic to fill a rugby field six feet high”, says the programme’s general manager, Simon Andrew. The plastic is repurposed into underground utility coverings and building materials right here in New Zealand. Astron Plastics in Auckland takes the shredded plastic from Agrecovery and makes it into useful products again.

“It’s an example of how manufacturers, industry and consumers can work together to reduce the harmful impacts of plastic waste in our environment,” says Andrew.

Since the programme commenced, Agrecovery has diverted 2,000 tonnes of plastic from landfill or harmful disposal practices like burning. The programme is picking up speed as collection rates rise as well as the number of people recycling and the brands that support the programme. The recycling sites, located in rural locations around the country, are set to top the 100 mark in the next few months – “a sharp rise from the 74 sites we had last year,” says Andrew.

Farmers and growers are able to drop off empty plastic agrichemical containers, free of charge, at over 90 drop off points across New Zealand. For those with high volumes, on-farm collections can be arranged.

Agrecovery also offers farmers free disposal of large drums and unwanted chemicals.

The initiative is made possible through participating agrichemical brands who voluntarily pay a levy on all product they sell to allow farmers and growers to recycle empty containers free of charge.

“These companies show a commendable commitment to product stewardship and sustainability by helping their customers responsibly dispose of leftover chemicals and packaging through the Agrecovery programme,” says Andrew.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says Agrecovery’s approach is making it easy for growers to participate in important recycling and keep their properties clean.

“We all have a role to play and fully support collaboration on taking what could be harmful waste and repurposing it in a useful way, all done here in New Zealand using our own ingenuity,” Chapman says.

Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen says that the federation is very supportive of the work the Agrecovery Foundation conducted.

“Agrecovery has been a welcome arrival by many farmers who don’t want to see the waste of our generation’s businesses become the bad look of future millennials. Farmers are pragmatic people who are always looking for solutions to waste problems. All good farmers want to leave their land on top and underneath in better condition than they found it for future generations to come. Federated farmers were active in the set up of Agrecovery and are involved in the ongoing governance of this great initiative. You only have to see the number of triple-rinsed ag chemical containers being returned to pick up sites for recycling to know the business has struck a chord with farmers up and down New Zealand.

“We look forward to working with Agrecovery in 2019.”

More on the programme’s success is found in its recently released Annual Report