By MICHELLE SLATER
DAIRY Australia is developing a national scheme to divert thousands of tonnes of plastic silage wrap out of landfill through a new recycling program being trialled in western Victoria.
Dairy Australia sustainability and innovation programs manager Ian Olmstead said they were hoping to roll the program out nationally once the trial was complete.
Mr Olmstead said between eight-and-a-half and nine tonnes of silage plastic was being used in Australia every year, including wraps and pit covers.
“We know a large amount of this ends up in landfill and a small amount ends up in existing recycling. Some is being managed on-farm, either buried or burned, this is the reality,” Mr Olmstead said.
“We realised the scale of the problem and we know farmers were looking for a solution to the problem.”
The trial is being funded by a Commonwealth National Product Stewardship Investment Fund, involving more than 80 farms in the large dairy district in western Victoria.
Mr Olmstead said farmers were being given free 190 kilogram-capacity bins to collect the waste they could either drop-off at central collection points, or pay a $25 fee to have it picked up.
He said most farmers were willing to pay the pick-up fee, which was less than rates at local tips.
The wrap is being sent to a recycler in Melbourne’s south, where it could be turned into new plastic films or sent off to be mixed with other plastics to be turned into harder products.
“We are trying to develop a nationally-consistent approach to collecting plastic and provide some transparency where it ends up and what it gets converted into,” Mr Olmstead said.
“Farmers have gone to the effort of separating it, they want to know its not just going into landfill. If people see their neighbours doing it, other farms will get on board too.”
Mr Olmstead said there had been a lot of investment in recycling domestically since Asia imposed export bans on Australian waste a few years ago.
But he said there were a lot of logistics to overcome establishing the scheme nationally, such as making it economically viable and finding a recycler in each region that could take the wraps.
He said there had been some interest in developing either bio-degradable or compostable silage wraps, but the plastic would perish if left outdoors and expose the feed.
“The uptake of the trial in western Victoria has been excellent, the funding means we have to manage the costs of moving the plastic to the recycler and managing the tests,” Mr Olmstead said.
“We’ve had a lot of interested parties putting their hands up to take the plastic in earnest once we start, there’s an end market now that wasn’t there five or 10 years ago, this is promising.
“I think now consumers are seeing we need to do things better, as an industry we want to be leaders in this space.”