Irish farmers are increasingly embracing the recycling of fertiliser plastics waste, with a 17% increase in the number of bags of fertiliser plastics collected at bring centres last year.
The Irish Farm Film Producers Group (IFFPG), which is the national farm plastics recycling scheme, collects fertiliser plastics through its sister company Farm Plastics Recycling, which is a commercial entity.
In 2020, a total of 19,000 half-tonne bags of fertiliser plastics were collected at 225 jointly run nationwide bring centres.
While Irish farmers have been leading the way for the last two decades in Europe when it comes to wrap and pit cover recycling (34,000t recycled and a 79% recycling rate achieved in 2020), more recently impressive progress has been made on the fertiliser plastics recycling front.
Farmers are currently charged at the rate of €10 per half-tonne bag delivered to bring-centres
Over the last five years, there has been a doubling in the volume of fertiliser plastics collected for recycling to the current level of approximately 800t to 1,000t per annum. The increase can be mainly attributed to the low cost and convenience of the service to farmers, as well as a growing waste management awareness among farmers.
Farmers are currently charged at the rate of €10 per half-tonne bag delivered to bring-centres, regardless of the weight of waste in the bag. As the average farmer generates in the region of one to two bags of fertiliser plastics per annum, from a cost point of view bring centres represent an attractive option.
In addition, bring centres are convenient in that they spread evenly throughout the country, with the average farmer travelling 9km to his/her local facility.
There has been a marked improvement in the quality of fertiliser plastics delivered by farmers to bring centres in recent years, which is essential to the success of the recycling process.
Fertiliser plastics come in two different polymer types, each of which must be collected separately.
The outer parts of bulk fertiliser bags (PP polymer) must be brought in separately in another bag to the bring-centre
In the case of bulk fertiliser bags (comprising both polymers), the liner must be removed by the farmer and can be presented at the bring centre together with small fertiliser bags (both LDPE polymers). The outer parts of bulk fertiliser bags (PP polymer) must be brought in separately in another bag to the bring-centre.
All fertiliser plastics collected are sent for recycling, with the majority sent to Irish recyclers. Examples of products that they are ultimately converted into include plastic packaging, crates and garden furniture. In terms of funding of the service, this is provided through a combination of the previously referred to collection charges at bring centres, as well as Repak subsidies. Most fertiliser producers meet their obligations through Repak membership, where they make a recycling contribution for every tonne of packaging placed on the Irish market.
Provided COVID-19 restrictions do not prevent it, IFFPG – working in partnership with Farm Plastics Recycling – intends to provide a full farm plastics bring centre programme in the period from late April to early August. For further information, visit www.farmplastics.ie or phone 1890 300 444.