Sunday, July 02, 2006

Great Britain Leading in Plastic Reduction?

Great Britain leading in Plastic Reduction? Perhaps and perhaps not however they have identified the enemy. View this report..

Each year about 550,000 tonnes of non-natural wastes are generated on farms in England, of which it is estimated that about 85,000 tonnes is waste plastic. Over 90% of holdings produce plastic waste, with packaging waste estimated to be about 21,000 tonnes each year and non-packaging plastic waste estimated at about 65,000 tonnes per year. This latter figure is bolstered by the high levels of contamination (soil and other debris) associated with silage wrap and horticultural films, as the following table highlights.

Non-Packaging Plastics
England
Wales
Scotland
Northern Ireland

UK Total (tonnes per year)
Silage film plastic
12,425
5,016
5,029
2,530
25,000

Silage film plastic + contamination
24.851
10,032
10,058
5,060
50,000

Greenhouse and tunnel film
468
10
12
11
500

Mulch film + crop cover
3,738
30
657
76
4,500

Mulch film, crop cover + contamination
18,689
148
3,238
380
22,500

Cores for silage wrap
703
339
327
138
1,506

Other horticultural plastics
5,617
114
143
127
6,000

Bale twine and net wrap
7,934
821
1,683
662
11,100

Tree guards
6,694
532
4,492
182
11,900

Total Non-Packaging Plastics
37,579
6,860
12,341
3,726
60,506

Total Non-Packaging Plastics (Inc. contamination)
64,956
11,994
19,997
6,559
103,506

Plastic Packaging (again in tonnes)

Agrochemical packaging
1,720
30
276
374
2,400

Fertiliser bags
8,748
984
1,654
815
12,200

Seed bags
840
15
134
12
1,000

Animal feed bags
6,419
1,283
2,019
1,680
11,400

Animal health packaging
444
105
124
76
750

Oil containers
501
47
84
38
669

Miscellaneous packaging
2,063
331
1,166
240
3,800

Total plastic packaging
20,734
2,794
5,457
3,235
32,219

TOTAL PLASTIC WASTE 135,725
Source of information: Environment Agency's Agricultural Waste Survey 2003
The Government has introduced new regulations to apply waste management controls to agricultural waste for the first time that will affect about 137,000 farms in England and Wales from 15 May 2006. Prior to this, much of the non-natural waste arising on farms was either buried or burned in an uncontrolled manner.

Farmers and growers have identified plastic waste as a priority waste stream for which least-cost disposal and recovery options are needed. Plastic wastes arising on farms can be bulky and dirty, making management difficult. Waste facilities in rural areas are often lacking and consequently transport of wastes off-farm can be costly.

The Challenge of recovering Agricultural Waste Plastic

Agricultural plastic packaging represents approximately 1.5% of the overall volume of plastic packaging in the waste stream in England. Furthermore, there are over 120,000 farm holdings producing approximately 21,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and 65,000 tonnes of non-packaging plastic. Of this non-packaging plastic, over 40% is contaminant. The average quantity of plastic generated per holding (without contaminant) is approximately 0.5 tonnes per annum.
As a comparison, the average recycling bank for plastic bottles collects 0.2 tonnes of plastic per week, with associated collection costs of £150 per tonne. This puts in context the challenge of developing an economic and environmentally sustainable method of collecting agricultural plastic.

The Agricultural Waste Plastics Collection and Recovery Programme is a positive move to help tackle these issues, with the provision of good practice guidance and key contacts for both farmers and collection companies alike.