Closing the Loop on Plastics in Agriculture, Horticulture and Mining


10 million bulk bags and 200 million sacks destined for recycling


5 December 2018 – Plastics have their place in society and bring considerable benefit when used and consumed responsibly. Yet we can do much more to make sure that end-of-life plastic packaging is recovered and recycled to maximise the value of the energy and materials used in its manufacture.

This week’s Meeting of Environment Ministers in Canberra on Friday 7th December, will cover some urgent issues concerning plastics packaging, battery recycling and the need to dramatically reduce waste generation in Australia. A refreshed National Waste Policy is also on the agenda.

While Australia continues to thrash out state solutions and national policies on plastics used in food and beverage packaging, plastics used in regional areas for fertilisers, grain, stock feed and extractive industries, have been overlooked by governments.

The size of the problem is significant and worthy of appropriate stewardship attention. It is estimated that 80,000 tonnes of plastic packaging is introduced into Australia each year. Over 7 million bulk bags (which hold 1 tonne of product) arrive empty and another 3 million arrive with primary product contained. It is estimated that 200 million bags (holding 15-25kg of product) also arrive each year.

To date, the vast majority of the 10 million of 1 tonne Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (also known as FIBCs or 1 tonne bulk bags), have headed straight to landfill or are illegally burned on-farm at end-of-life.

Ensuring that these bulk bags (woven polypropylene) and the smaller sacks (polypropylene and LDPE) do not end up as litter in our waterways and oceans is environmentally essential. The reality is that single-use plastics are ending up in the wrong place causing litter and threatening wildlife.

In short, bulk bag importers, farm input suppliers, local councils and farmers/consumers must work together to take responsibility for packaging materials used in agriculture and horticulture.

To address this gap and the challenge of recycling plastics packaging in regional areas, a relatively new program – Farm Waste Recovery – has been established to better deal with the millions of bulk bags and sacks used across all industry sectors that enter the Australian market each year. The 1 tonne bulk bags alone represent around 33,000 tonnes of plastic per annum.

Farm Waste Recovery is an end-to-end stewardship program with a strong corporate social responsibility approach covering collection and logistics, resin processing and new product manufacturing using the recovered recyclate.

Stephen Richards, the Managing Director of Industry Waste Recovery developed a unique environmental stewardship initiative and has been working with key stakeholders to collect and recycle used fertiliser bags.

This week’s meeting provides a significant opportunity for all environment ministers to get behind Farm Waste Recovery and demonstrate their support for recycling plastics packaging used in regional areas” said Stephen Richards.

Current plans include the establishment of 26 resin processing and manufacturing sites in regional areas employing upwards of 150 people, however infrastructure support from State Governments is a key requirement to trigger overall investment and operation nationwide.

“By developing a national scheme to collect and process nearly 10 million woven polypropylene bags per annum, we can help ensure they don’t end up in our waterways and oceans causing litter and threatening wildlife.”

Farm Waste Recovery is calling on all Australian environment ministers to show leadership and contribute to creating sustainable recycling options for end-of-life plastics accumulating in regional areas. Funding from the Federal and State Governments will make a major difference.

“This is a sleeves-up exercise that can be accelerated and rolled-out nationwide provided federal, state and territory environment ministers contribute funding. We are very focused on shared product responsibility so governments certainly have a role to play” said Stephen Richards.

The bags collected through Farm Waste Recovery are processed and recycled for use in manufacturing other plastic items, including garden furniture and traffic bollards.



Stephen Richards – Managing Director
Farm Waste Recovery
Mobile:  0499 053 255
Twitter:  @FarmWasteAU

About Farm Waste Recovery
Farm Waste Recovery (FWR) facilitates the collection and processing of plastic waste, in regional Australia. Our aim is to significantly reduce the number of landfilled polypropylene agricultural bags, reducing environmental damage and eliminating industrial pollution of fields, paddocks, waterways and natural habitats. The FWR solution delivers positive environmental outcomes, reduces waste, enables recycling and contributes to the conservation of resources. We work closely with manufacturers, farmers, local councils and regional communities to maximise resource recovery and recycling associated with plastic packaging used in agriculture, horticulture and fisheries.
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