What about waste?

Trish Rankin is a dairy farmer in Taranaki with a wealth of knowledge and experience in using farm planning to reduce the impact of farming businesses on the environment, in a practical way. As well as dairy farming, she works off farm for AsureQuality developing  their freshwater farm certification and audit approach. In 2019, she participated in the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, where the focus of her project was on waste management and reduction.

Trish’s five top tips for managing waste created on farm:

  1. Know your waste streams

Identify what creates waste on your farm. Things to look for include: household/domestic rubbish, plastic wrap/silage, wrap/netting, waste oil/fuel, plastic containers, expired chemicals, orphan chemicals (the things at the back of your shed that have faded or no label on them), rubber/tyres, scrap metal, building/demo waste, animal health containers, feed/seed/fert/wool bags and weeds/pest control containers.

  1. Little by little, a little becomes a lot

Once you know where waste is created on your farm (a “waste stream”), set a goal to investigate how to manage each waste stream better on a set timeframe. For example, for each month/quarter decide to learn/improve on the waste management of one item:

  • Month/Quarter One – Plastic Container recycling. Sign up to Agrecovery and arrange a collection of larger drums on farm or drop off to a collection depot after triple rinsing. 
  • Month/Quarter Two – Domestic Recycling. Set up a recycling depot centrally on-farm and discuss with staff about using this to drop in clean tins, plastics 1/2/5, glass, paper and cardboard. 
  • Month/Quarter Three– Buy some large plastic collection bags for woven bags (feed/seed/fert) and package these up. 
  • Month/Quarter Four- Develop a routine to manage waste (e.g. Monthly Farm Tidy Friday). Someone has the job to drive recycling to town and pick up fish and chips for lunch. Others are checking that fert/seed/feed bags are put into the plastic collection bags or triple rinsing containers ready for drop off to the Agrecovery depot.
  1. Know more, Buy better

By now, you’ll have a good idea about what products create the most waste on-farm, so is there an opportunity to buy and consume better? For example, when you are at your local supply store, can you buy a product with packaging that can be recycled (look for products with Agrecovery logo on it if it’s a chemical product), select HDPE/woven bags for things like calf meal instead of the plastic coated ones, because the woven bags can be recycled by Agrecovery. Also Plasback is a company that collects and recycles farm waste such as silage wrap and twine.

  1. Buy Upcycled/Circular Products

Support the upcycling and circular products that NZ is creating. The more we buy these products, the more we support the innovation that improves waste streams. Here are a couple of organisations that are doing this work:

Future Post is a NZ based company that creates 100% recycled plastic fence posts. The company takes recycled household plastics such as milk containers and household plastic bags and turns them into plastic fence posts. Machinery designed and made in New Zealand is used to turn the soft plastic packaging into small chips, which are then put through an extruder and moulded into fence posts. About 1500 bags go into each standard fence post.

Saveboard is a New Zealand company that upcycles packaging waste into construction board. The company converts material such as coffee cups, carton board and soft plastic waste, which were previously unrecyclable in New Zealand, into new products. 

  1. Good news: Waste management is becoming even easier over time

There is already support to help farmers manage waste streams on-farm. Expectations are growing for the manufacturers of products to provide recyclable or upcycled products, and funded waste services are becoming more available for farmers. This means that over time more products will be able to be collected or returned using recycling schemes that can repurpose materials 

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Taranaki farmers