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EcoCover Says Weeds Choking Economic Growth

EcoCover Says Weeds Choking Economic Growth

Weeds are choking economic growth in New Zealand by about $340 million a year in lost productivity, while a further $53 million is spent on control measures, a recent Massey University survey shows.

Moreover, conventional control measures – black polyethylene weed mats and herbicides – come with their own long-term costs to the environment.

Now however, a fledgling Kiwi company has developed a unique new product using old fashioned down-to-earth wisdom, which is set to revolutionise weed control worldwide.

EcoCover director Murray Cruickshank first heard about a paper-based mulch mat in 1997.

At the time, his company was one of New Zealand’s major suppliers of plastic weed matting.

“I knew that if someone had found a way of manufacturing a paper-based mulch mat on a commercial basis, this would be a major breakthrough,” Cruickshank says.

He finally tracked the inventor down in Australia, but it turned out he only had a hand-made sample.

Even so, the germ of the idea was there, and Cruickshank founded EcoCover and spent the next few years developing the technology to make the product on an industrial scale.

“Everyone’s grandmother knows that newspaper makes a great mulch mat,” he says.

“But it’s not practicable to lay it down on anything but a very still day, and impossible to use in industrial horticulture or large-scale landscaping.”

EcoCover mulch mat is pre-fertilised during manufacture, a unique product attribute, and is made primarily from waste paper removed from the landfill waste stream and a proprietary organic adhesive sandwiched between Kraft paper, which is easy to handle, cut to size and lay.

In addition to curbing weeds, EcoCover also conserves water by reducing evaporation by 82 percent, promotes plant growth, moderates soil temperature, reduces erosion, supplies organic nutrients to the soil, and is certified organic, compostable and fully biodegradable.

“We are not in the recycling business,” Cruickshank says.

“When you recycle, you take something out of the waste stream – whether it’s paper, metal, glass or plastic – but in most cases, it eventually ends up back in the waste stream.

“EcoCover is unique in that it actually makes the waste product disappear from the waste stream.

“Our mulch mat mostly ends up as worm caste.”

One EcoCover plant working a single shift per day has the capacity to remove more than 2000 cubic metres of paper from the waste stream annually. However, as anyone in business knows, it’s not enough just to have a brilliant product.

“We have had a few obstacles along the way in developing and refining the product and plant technology and many less determined would have quit,” Cruickshank admits.

“But we have persevered, and research and development never stopped.” Extensive research by the Southern Cross University (Australia) and Massey University (New Zealand) has independently proven EcoCover’s product attributes.

EcoCover is now patented in 21 countries, and has offices in Australia, Britain, the United States and Dubai, with a branch in South East Asia due to open shortly.

The company plans to sell the technology to “like-minded parties” who want to make and sell the product themselves.

You can have your own EcoCover manufacturing plant for about $US1.5 million, including delivery.

As a keynote speaker at the International Zero Waste Conference in Kaikoura next month, Cruickshank will be expounding the EcoCover gospel to waste management experts from around the world.

He says EcoCover could spell the end of unsightly black plastic, herbicides and tedious weeding, as well as conserving the planet’s precious fresh water resources.

From vineyards, orchards, farms and nurseries, to Department of Conservation rehabilitation programmes in the Chatham Islands, EcoCover products are already proving their worth, he says.

“In fact, anybody trying to grow anything can benefit from EcoCover.”

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