We had never regarded the Green Party’s Eugenie Sage as a friend of farmers, but as Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage she has announced $381,000 in Government funding to enable farmers and growers to better deal with waste.
It’s a modest sum, fair to say. Almost negligible. But it was big enough to be registered by the Point of Order Trough Monitor (which leaves it to readers to determine if this is good or bad government spending).
The funding, from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund, will mean farmers and growers can more easily recycle or safely dispose of a wider range of on-farm waste such as agrichemicals, scrap metal, soft plastics and used oil.
Rural recycling programme Agrecovery will manage the project by offering one-stop-shop events where farmers and growers can drop off waste. The events will accept a wide variety of waste over and above what Agrecovery’s existing agrichemical scheme accepts.
The Minister made the announcement at the South Island Agricultural Field Days in Canterbury.
“This funding will enable the programme to offer a new one-stop-shop approach to allow farmers to drop off agrichemicals and their containers as well as other farm waste, including bulk fertiliser bags, used oil, scrap metal, silage/bailage wrap and other soft plastics at the same time.
“Waste on farm has traditionally been burned, buried or stock-piled which can have significant health risks and can cause air and water pollution. This project would see rural waste either recycled, or disposed of, in an efficient, safe and managed way.
“This Agrecovery project will also help develop options for New Zealand’s first mandatory product stewardship – for agrichemicals and their containers,” Eugenie Sage said.
The one-stop-shop approach builds on an existing scheme.
“Currently farmers are able to drop off agrichemical containers at close to 100 collection sites around the country under a voluntary product stewardship scheme run by Agrecovery,” Eugenie Sage said.
Agrecovery also collects large quantities of containers and drums from farms, and disposes of unwanted agrichemicals. The manufacturers who participate in the programme fund it by paying a levy on the products they sell into the marketplace.
Federated Farmers – usually an outfit which lobbies for fiscal prudence and frowns on government profligacy – welcomed the announcement as “a shot in the arm for the agricultural industry’s ongoing campaign to recycle and re-use”.
The feds’ environment spokesperson, Chris Allen, explained that Agrecovery is a not-for-profit agency of which Feds is a founding trustee.
Since 2006 it has diverted well over 2000 tonnes of agrichemical plastic containers and other materials from landfill, or harmful disposal practices like burning or burying, he said.
“Farmers are highly motivated to do the right thing for the environment, and this programme shows them that products once considered rubbish have a value, can be recycled and re-purposed for products such as underground utility coverings and building materials,” Chris says.
If they are highly motivated and doing the right thing, we may wonder why taxpayers must come to the party.
But it seems the feds figure they can do even better with a bit of government help and actually applied for the money.
“Building on this [the work done so far], the successful grant application to the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund will enable Agrecovery to hold a series of one-stop-shop waste recovery events. As well as agrichemicals and their containers, farmers will be able to bring along other farm waste such as fertilizer bags, used oil, scrap metal, silage/bailage wrap and other soft plastics,” Chris says.
Agrecovery general manager Simon Andrew says they trialed two pop-up rural waste recovery events in Matamata and Geraldine last year and close to 20 tonnes of material was collected in just two days.
Six more trial events are taking place this year as Agrecovery “refines and tests” processes, Andrew says, and the funding will enable the frequency and geographical spread of the pop-ups to increase.
“We’re striving for greater levels of product stewardship and ultimately more processing facilities for these kinds of materials in New Zealand, so recyclables don’t have to go overseas for re-purposing.”
Sage said a previous project managed by Environment Canterbury established the need for the new one-stop-shop, as well as the impacts on and risks to New Zealand’s natural resources, economy, and social and cultural wellbeing from burning, burying and stockpiling rural waste.
The Ministry for the Environment is also co-ordinating work on mandatory product stewardship schemes for tyres, refrigerants and lithium ion batteries.