Parliamentary Q& A “Burning rural plastics”
JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister for the Environment: What steps is the Government taking to reduce the amount of rural plastic waste being burnt, buried, or ending up as countryside litter?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): The Government is working with farmers and their support industries to recycle and reuse the plastic waste generated from, mainly, silage wrap. The nationwide Plasback scheme was one of the first accredited product stewardship schemes, and yesterday, at the Agricultural Fieldays in Hamilton, I announced the first grant from the Waste Minimisation Fund to support the programme.
John Hayes: What advice does the Minister have on what is currently happening to this plastic waste, and what will be achieved by the new scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have been advised that the bulk of the 7,000 tonnes a year of plastic farm waste is currently burnt, which results in the release of toxic chemicals into the air. A further portion is buried. The ambitious goal of this scheme is to establish a network of on-farm recycling facilities throughout New Zealand, with the aim of recycling 2,400 tonnes by July next year. The Government is working to lead the same sort of culture change that has occurred over the past decade or two with households, which now extensively use kerbside recycling, albeit the logistics of distance make the farm-based recycling of plastics more challenging.
John Hayes: What provision has been made to ensure that there are economically viable uses for the collected rural plastic waste—because I am aware that some recycling schemes have got into difficulty because they have not been able to use the collected waste economically?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Of course, it is important, as the member says, not just to collect the waste but also to have a practical use for it. The proposal that the Government is backing involves a recycling facility in Christchurch that is able to use the waste, including the dirty silage waste, and is able to remanufacture it into products that can be used, such as piping and bins. The scheme also provides for the reuse of agricultural chemical containers, which, if left on farms, can result in pollution. This scheme involves the containers being reused, which I think is a good outcome.