Rural recycling a challenge for farmers in isolated areas

FARMERS in isolated areas such as the East Coast who want to recycle are disadvantaged by the Government’s approach, a lobby group says.

Farmers here have to pay more to be involved in the recycling scheme than in the rest of the country, and have to deliver plastics to refuse stations themselves, while the rest of the country has a collection service.

New Zealand Product Stewardship Council wants the Government to enact a mandatory recycling scheme, so the costs of collecting, transporting and recycling waste is built into the product price, with all farmers sharing the recycling costs.

However, the Government says it believes in industry-developed solutions, which will expand in the region over time as farmer participation increases.

Dealing with farm waste has long been an issue. Burying it is not good for the environment and burning plastics is prohibited in the region. Many farmers stockpile their waste, waiting for solutions to dispose of it properly.

Agricultural recycling scheme Plasback, set up by crop packaging producer Agpac in 2006, offers fully recyclable liners to contain different types of farm plastics, from silage wrap to polyethylene drums, and collects them for a $40 fee.

Farmers involved in the scheme receive certificates to show they have disposed of their waste properly.

The plastics are recycled into products including rubbish bags, plastic lumber, decking materials and a plywood replacement product.

About 2500 farmers have signed up to the scheme nationwide and about 9000 tonnes has been collected.

Initially the scheme bypassed the East Coast region, until it was introduced in September last year with support from Gisborne District Council.

However, East Coast farmers have to pay higher costs for the bags ($86.25 for a pack of three compared to $58.65) and transport them themselves to designated waste transfer stations.

GDC also covers the cost of transporting the recyclables to the Waikato Plasback centre, through the waste minimisation levy.

Nine East Coast farmers have taken part so far, with 16 liners of silage film weighing about 3200kg, and two lots of used, washed 20-litre drums weighing 692kg collected.

Costs disadvantage farmers

New Zealand Product Stewardship Council (NZPSC) co-ordinator Sandra Murray said while Plasback was a good scheme, the higher costs disadvantaged farmers trying to do the right thing.

“Farmers in Gisborne and other areas pay through the nose for Plasback to collect and transport their farm plastic for recycling. We frequently hear farmers being abused for not being responsible with their waste and yet – unlike urban centres – rural areas have greatly reduced recycling services and what they do have is expensive.”

NZPSC wants the Government to promote greater producer responsibility for waste through mandatory recycling schemes. This means the costs of collection, transport and recycling materials are built into the product price.

“This way all farmers across the country would take part, and those in more isolated areas would not be disadvantaged by cost.”

Federated Farmers Gisborne-Wairoa provincial president Charlie Reynolds said many East Coast farmers found the Plasback service too expensive and impractical.

When full, the liners could weigh 150 to 200 kilograms, making them difficult to transport to refuse stations.

Mr Reynolds supported factoring the cost of collecting and recycling into the product price, as long as it did not make the product too expensive.

Mandatory scheme ideal

Gisborne District Council waste minimisation officer Anne Lister said a mandatory product stewardship scheme was the ideal.

“The council supports these programmes to reduce the amount of waste being put in farm dumps and we would like to see all customers accessing these schemes at the same cost rather than being disadvantaged by distance.”

Plasback scheme manager Chris Hartshorne said they were initially reluctant to offer the scheme on the East Coast, with few farmers wanting to take part and the geographical distances involved.

They were working with GDC to grow farmer participation.

“We are seeing the very early shoots of interest,” Mr Hartshorne said.

Mr Hartshorne said a mandatory stewardship scheme required legislation and was expensive to introduce.

“Business does not need additional regulation but requires the enterprise to get on and deal with a problem without regulation.

“Plasback has succeeded in doing this by making sure we have a market for all the waste streams we collect.”

Associate Minister for the Environment Scott Simpson has no plans to implement a mandatory scheme.

“We prefer farmers and companies to do the right thing on their own.”

As more farmers in the East Coast area got on board, over time it would create a “snowball effect”.

FARMERS in isolated areas such as the East Coast who want to recycle are disadvantaged by the Government’s approach, a lobby group says.

Farmers here have to pay more to be involved in the recycling scheme than in the rest of the country, and have to deliver plastics to refuse stations themselves, while the rest of the country has a collection service.

New Zealand Product Stewardship Council wants the Government to enact a mandatory recycling scheme, so the costs of collecting, transporting and recycling waste is built into the product price, with all farmers sharing the recycling costs.

However, the Government says it believes in industry-developed solutions, which will expand in the region over time as farmer participation increases.

Dealing with farm waste has long been an issue. Burying it is not good for the environment and burning plastics is prohibited in the region. Many farmers stockpile their waste, waiting for solutions to dispose of it properly.

Agricultural recycling scheme Plasback, set up by crop packaging producer Agpac in 2006, offers fully recyclable liners to contain different types of farm plastics, from silage wrap to polyethylene drums, and collects them for a $40 fee.

Farmers involved in the scheme receive certificates to show they have disposed of their waste properly.

The plastics are recycled into products including rubbish bags, plastic lumber, decking materials and a plywood replacement product.

About 2500 farmers have signed up to the scheme nationwide and about 9000 tonnes has been collected.

Initially the scheme bypassed the East Coast region, until it was introduced in September last year with support from Gisborne District Council.

However, East Coast farmers have to pay higher costs for the bags ($86.25 for a pack of three compared to $58.65) and transport them themselves to designated waste transfer stations.

GDC also covers the cost of transporting the recyclables to the Waikato Plasback centre, through the waste minimisation levy.

Nine East Coast farmers have taken part so far, with 16 liners of silage film weighing about 3200kg, and two lots of used, washed 20-litre drums weighing 692kg collected.

Costs disadvantage farmers

New Zealand Product Stewardship Council (NZPSC) co-ordinator Sandra Murray said while Plasback was a good scheme, the higher costs disadvantaged farmers trying to do the right thing.

“Farmers in Gisborne and other areas pay through the nose for Plasback to collect and transport their farm plastic for recycling. We frequently hear farmers being abused for not being responsible with their waste and yet – unlike urban centres – rural areas have greatly reduced recycling services and what they do have is expensive.”

NZPSC wants the Government to promote greater producer responsibility for waste through mandatory recycling schemes. This means the costs of collection, transport and recycling materials are built into the product price.

“This way all farmers across the country would take part, and those in more isolated areas would not be disadvantaged by cost.”

Federated Farmers Gisborne-Wairoa provincial president Charlie Reynolds said many East Coast farmers found the Plasback service too expensive and impractical.

When full, the liners could weigh 150 to 200 kilograms, making them difficult to transport to refuse stations.

Mr Reynolds supported factoring the cost of collecting and recycling into the product price, as long as it did not make the product too expensive.

Mandatory scheme ideal

Gisborne District Council waste minimisation officer Anne Lister said a mandatory product stewardship scheme was the ideal.

“The council supports these programmes to reduce the amount of waste being put in farm dumps and we would like to see all customers accessing these schemes at the same cost rather than being disadvantaged by distance.”

Plasback scheme manager Chris Hartshorne said they were initially reluctant to offer the scheme on the East Coast, with few farmers wanting to take part and the geographical distances involved.

They were working with GDC to grow farmer participation.

“We are seeing the very early shoots of interest,” Mr Hartshorne said.

Mr Hartshorne said a mandatory stewardship scheme required legislation and was expensive to introduce.

“Business does not need additional regulation but requires the enterprise to get on and deal with a problem without regulation.

“Plasback has succeeded in doing this by making sure we have a market for all the waste streams we collect.”

Associate Minister for the Environment Scott Simpson has no plans to implement a mandatory scheme.

“We prefer farmers and companies to do the right thing on their own.”

As more farmers in the East Coast area got on board, over time it would create a “snowball effect”.

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