Irish farmers smash plastic recycling targets

The Irish Government has been forced to rethink its strategy to encourage recycling of plastic farm waste after take-up of a free collection scheme surpassed all expectations.

Since 1997 members of the Irish Farm Film Producers group, which represents manufacturers and runs collection schemes, had picked up the tab for the disposal.

Farms produce large quantities of plastic waste, in the form of feed sacks, tree guards, baling twine and sheeting to cover poly-tunnels and protect new crops.

But in 2005 farmers were so enthusiastic about the scheme that the target recycling rate of 50% was smashed with over 70% of plastic waste from farms being collected.

The revised farm plastic scheme will see farmers charged around 30 Euros per pick up, with smaller farmers given the option to store plastic on site until they have enough

In the meantime many Irish counties will be holding a plastics amnesty where farmers can bring in any waste plastic they have been hoarding before the charges kick in.

Environment Minister Dick Roche has tried to appease the inevitable upset of the charges by telling farmers they can expect a much improved and more reliable service.

“The [original] scheme was set up and funded on the basis of producers meeting a target of 50%.

“This target was exceeded by some 40% in 2005 when IFFPG collected and recycled 12,500 tonnes of this waste. Due to the high demand the company were forced to suspend collection activities leaving a significant number of areas without collections.

“Clearly, in a situation where farmers in some counties have gone without having their waste plastic collected, the current scheme was unsustainable.”

He said increasing the levy on producers, now set at 127 Euros per tonne, which currently pay for the scheme was not an option when it came to bridging the funding gap required to bring efficiency back up to an acceptable level.

“A higher levy could introduce further market distortions. I think this strikes the right balance in ensuring a well funded, efficiently run scheme”, said Mr Roche.

“The demand for the scheme demonstrates quite clearly that farmers wish to deal with their waste in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Sam Bond

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