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Rural recycling rates soar, but more solutions needed

Rural recycling has seen unprecedented gains, with rates soaring to 43 percent above last year’s figures. The programme responsible for these results supports government proposals to rethink plastics but says there is an urgent need for local recycling solutions to generate greater recycling rates for a wider selection of rural plastics.

If a wider variety of plastic can be recycled, less plastic waste will build up in rural areas and fewer harmful practices, such as burning and burying, will be deployed to dispose of it. This will benefit our environment and our wildlife.

To help clear waste from farms, Agrecovery recycles agrichemical containers and drums so that they can be made into underground cable covers and building materials right here in New Zealand. It has been operating for 13 years and in the last year has collected 437 tonnes of plastic. The scheme is pushing for greater investment in domestic recycling infrastructure for farm plastics, especially for soft plastics such as wrap and bulk bags.

Agrecovery General Manager Simon Andrew says that government proposals to increase the waste levy must include local recycling options for a broader range of rural plastic.

“Our recycling programme is successful because local options are available for processing HDPE plastics, but local solutions are needed for recycling other plastics - like the woven polypropylene bags used for feed, seed and fertiliser. There are options for recycling these, as well as the other softer plastics of silage and bale wrap – but we need more local facilities to process the materials.”

“We all need to do our bit to protect our environment and our country. We must help our farmers and growers find better solutions to managing plastics as they are often left with the problem of working out what to do with their waste.”

Recent studies demonstrate that farmers and growers want to deal with plastic packaging properly and ensure a positive legacy for future generations.

The agrichemical manufacturers who participate in the Agrecovery programme are prepared to pay a greater levy if more plastic waste is diverted away from harmful disposal practices.

Agrecovery is at the very heart of enabling farmers and growers to recycle and reuse plastic packaging. The programme contributed to the Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand Report, recently released by the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and featured as a case study.

Plastics are needed to protect and preserve vital farming tools such as agrichemicals and animal feed. Agrecovery is working alongside the entire supply chain to ensure that used farm plastics ‘go another round’ – making them into useful new products and supporting a circular economy approach.

The programme welcomes recent proposals from the Ministry for the Environment to regulate and further promote product stewardship (where manufacturers take responsibility for their products, including disposal) across New Zealand to address plastic waste issues.

“We are eager to contribute to the government’s national plastics action plan and welcome proposals by the Ministry for the Environment to regulate and further promote product stewardship across New Zealand,” adds Andrew.

Agrecovery is ideally placed to take a leadership role in facilitating positive outcomes for farmers and growers.

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