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Demand fuels farm recycling firm expansion in Kaipara

Posted at 9:00am Monday 05 Apr, 2021

Bagged plastic waste.
Bagged plastic waste.

A plastic baling machine.
A plastic baling machine.

Tuffboard recycled textile.
Tuffboard recycled textile.

Surging demand from local farmers has prompted a firm that recycles plastic waste to scout out sites for a new baling station in Kaipara.

Over the last 15 years, Plasback has recycled more than 18,000 tonnes of plastic farm waste.
Plasback northern collector Bruce Ferguson says there are more than 500 farms on his books in the upper North Island, including 120 in Rodney and a similar number in Kaipara.

The recent uptick in interest can partly be attributed to a decision by Fonterra to pay farmers more for their milk if they meet sustainability criteria, including recycling plastic waste such as plastic used to wrap hay bales.  

From June 1, up to 10 cents per kg of a farmer's milk payment will be determined by their sustainability credentials as part of a “co-operative difference payment”.

To qualify, farmers must recycle their plastic wraps with an accredited recycling scheme, and currently Plasback is the only accredited scheme.

Bruce says he is searching for a site in either Kaiwaka or Maungaturoto for the new station.

The new baler will compress plastic waste to a quarter of its original size, allowing trucks to transport 30 tonnes of plastic for recycling at a time.

“I did 20 years of wrapping silage bales, so it has been nice to be a part of cleaning that up,” Bruce says.

The new station has been made possible thanks to a $440,000 grant from the Government's Covid Response and Recovery Fund, which Plasback has matched.

In addition to farms, Bruce also picks up plastic waste from 8 Wired and Sawmill Breweries, as well as Coresteel and the Farm and Lifestyle Centre in Warkworth.

Plasback national scheme manager Chris Hartshorne estimates that Plasback is currently collecting around 40 per cent of the nation's rural plastic wrap waste.

“It took us six years to get to the first 1000 tonnes, but it has rapidly scaled up in recent times,” he says.

Plasback recycles some of its plastic waste into a plywood replacement product it calls Tuffboard.

Chris says that most deer velvet barns in New Zealand are now lined with Tuffboard because of its sterile properties.

He says when velvet was declared a food grade product, the industry had to switch away from wooden board, which is porous and susceptible to germs.

Farmers can have their plastic wrap waste picked up by Plasback for $60 a load. Bags are available online, or from PGG Wrightson and Farmlands in Wellsford, as well as Farm and Lifestyle Centre in Warkworth.

Last year, the Government signalled that regulation was on the horizon, which would require farm plastic producers to ensure their product could be recycled.

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