Rural waste recycling programme keeps plastic from landfill

A recycling programme is taking plastic waste from the rural sector and repurposing it for the construction industry.

In the last year, the Agrecovery programme has recovered and recycled 308 tonnes of plastic that might otherwise be burnt, buried or dumped - enough solid plastic to fill a rugby field 1.8m high.

Farmers and growers are able to drop off empty plastic agrichemical containers, free of charge, at over 90 points across New Zealand. 

Astron Plastics in Auckland takes the shredded plastic from Agrecovery and makes it into useful products, including underground utility coverings and building materials .

The programme's general manager, Simon Andrew, said it shows what can be achieved with partnerships.

"It's an example of how manufacturers, industry and consumers can work together to reduce the harmful impacts of plastic waste in our environment."

Since the programme commenced, Agrecovery has diverted 2000 tonnes of plastic from landfill or harmful disposal practices like burning. 

Mr Andrew said 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."

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.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said 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," he said.

Federated Farmers is also supporting the programme.

"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," said Environment spokesperson Chris Allen.

"All good farmers want to leave their land on top and underneath in better condition than they found it for future generations to come."