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Managing waste plastics from farms

by 5m Editor
20 October 2004, at 12:00am

UK - Farming bodies, suppliers, the waste management and recycling industries, the Environment Agency and Government joined forces last week to consider how to achieve the sustainable management of plastic waste from farms.

In a conference organised by the Agricultural Waste Stakeholders' Forum1 at Regents College Conference Centre in London (14 October) a wide range of participants were brought together to consider an action plan for a nationwide farm plastics collection and recovery scheme.

The conference comes in advance of new legislation that will bring agricultural waste under environmental control in line with other business sectors.2 The findings of the conference will be used to inform Defra's consultation on the new Regulations which are expected soon.

Chairman of the Forum, Sue Ellis of Defra said: "Today's conference worked well in establishing a collaborative approach to help farmers and those producing and supplying farm plastics to minimise and to encourage the recovery of waste."

Farms produce more than 80,000 tonnes of waste plastic a year. It includes plastic packaging, such as fertiliser bags, animal feed bags and agrochemical containers, as well as non-packaging plastics, like silage films, crop covers and tunnel films.

Burning waste plastics - either in the open or in a drum incinerator - is the current disposal option for most farmers.3 Open burning pollutes the environment and poses health risks to farmers, farm workers and local communities and will therefore be banned on the introduction of the new Regulations. The use of drum incinerators to burn plastics will be phased out. Farmers will also have to stop using their existing dumps before the Regulations come into force - unless they obtain a landfill permit which will be an uneconomic option. Surveys confirm that most farmers would participate in a nationwide plastics recovery programme.

Commenting after the conference Steve Lee, Chief Executive Officer of the Charted Institute of Waste Management said: "Its an important waste stream, with over 120,000 tonnes of high value plastics which we would rather see recycled and recovered rather than disposed of in landfill sites. There are several successful small local schemes and we would be delighted to see them working nationwide. However, we need a mandatory national scheme with full statutory backing."

NFU Deputy President, Peter Kendall, said: "The industry does take its environmental responsibilities very seriously and looks forward to seeing a practical, efficient and cost effective solution to plastic waste that works for and not against farmers. We now need to work in partnership with others to take the agenda forward and find a sustainable funding solution."

The Agricultural Industries Confederation's consultant Rob Wise initiated the conference in his role as Chairman of the Forum's Recovery, Reuse and Recycling Subgroup. "Bringing all these players together is creating the momentum necessary to get practical solutions in place which will offer best value for farmers," he said. "We will feed the ideas from the conference into the Government's consultation and, taken together with our request for landfill tax funding, it should enable us to get things off the ground."

For more information, including presentations from the conference go to:
www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/agforum/index.htm

For more information please contact Rob Wise, Chairman of the Agricultural Waste Stakeholder Forum's Recovery, Reuse and Recycling Subgroup, please ring 01787 278 727 or 07774 134 937.

Source: Defra - 19th October 2004

5m Editor