The major challenge of disposing of plastic waste from silage bales is set to be tackled through a new recycling scheme Dairy Australia is trialling in Western Victoria.
Every year, an estimated 9000 tonnes of silage plastic waste is generated in Australia. Most dairy farmers are forced to pay commercial waste contractors to collect this waste, which is normally then just disposed of in landfill.
A small number of farmers choose to either burn the plastic waste or bury it on their farms - practices which are unlawful and pose health risks both to the herds and the community, as well as being damaging for the environment.
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In support of the dairy industry's aim to implement a system that collects and recycles 100 per cent of silage wrap by 2030, Dairy Australia has secured funding under the Commonwealth government's National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to establish a new National Silage Plastic Recycling Scheme.
The first stage of the scheme has seen about 100 farmers in Western Victoria enrol in a silage plastic recycling trial that will allow them to dispose of their silage plastic waste responsibly.
The farmers have been provided with free recycling bins and bin liners in which to collect their clean, used silage plastic.
When the bins are full, farmers can either book on-farm collection of the plastic for a small fee or drop it off themselves at waste transfer sites located at Killarney, Peterborough, Simpson, Naroghid and Colac for free.
The collected plastic is taken to specialist recycling sites, where it is turned into plastic pellets that can be used to make a wide variety of new products.
The ultimate goal is to 'close the loop' by converting the used plastic into new silage plastic, as part of the dairy industry's commitment to a circular economy.
Dairy Australia's Program Manager, Manufacturing Innovation and Sustainability, Ian Olmstead, said a wide range of farms are involved in the Western Victorian trial.
"The trial is open to all farmers in Western Victoria who use silage and who would like to see the plastic waste from their silage recycled rather than go into landfill," Mr Olmstead said.
"While we are primarily targeting dairy farmers, we are also including beef farmers who use silage in the trial as well.
"The idea is to have a broad cross-section of farm sizes, farm locations and farm types in the trial.
"That will allow us to develop recommendations for a final national scheme design which has strong input from farmers and is practical, sustainable and commercially feasible for all involved."
To ensure the success of the trial, Dairy Australia is also recruiting people with professional expertise across the agricultural plastics value chain to join the scheme's Executive Steering Committee.
Their collective experience will help guide the formation of the final national scheme, ensuring that it is feasible across every step of the recycling journey.
To find out more about the scheme, visit the Dairy Australia website and search for "silage recycling" or email RecyclingTrial@dairyaustralia.com.au
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