Farmers achieve 88% recycling rate for balewrap and silage covers

Pictured at UCD Lyons Estate farm at the announcement of the high recycling rate for balewrap and silage covers, are Limerick lady, Geraldine O'Sullivan, Senior Policy Executive, IFA Environment and Farm Forestry Committee; Tom Dunne, Kilworth, chairman of IFFPG; Ossian Smyth TD, Minister of State at the Dept. of Environment, Climate and Communications; Tipperary man, Liam Moloney, general manager IFFPG; Dr. Kevin McDonnell, Professor, Crop Sc. & Biosystems Engineering, UCD and Newcastle, Co. Kildare with Sorcha Byrne, Wexford office, Dept of Environment, Climate and Communications. (Photo: Tony Keane)

Irish farmers recycled plastic from the equivalent of 18m silage bales in 2022 and in doing so achieved a remarkable 88% recycling rate.

The vast majority of the plastic was collected from farmers at over 200 bring-centres, which the Irish Farm Films Producers’ Group (IFFPG) held throughout the summer at locations such as livestock marts, co-ops and agri-merchants. As almost half of the plastic collected was processed at domestic recycling facilities, this also represented a boost to the circular economy in Ireland.

A total of 37,000 tonnes of silage wrap and silage pit covers was recycled in 2022, which represented an 88% recycling rate. Recent record levels of recycling, with 40% more used farm films being recycled now compared to five years ago, can be attributed to a growing farm market (since the abolition of milk quota), as well as ever-increasing numbers of farmers engaging in recycling.

For Irish farmers, farm film recycling has become a mainstream activity, with their local bring-centre considered both the most convenient (average distance of 6 miles for farmers) and cost effective (€35 charge for balewrap from 250 bales) means of managing their used farm films.

Farm plastics recycling in Ireland is coordinated by IFFPG, which is the national farm plastics compliance scheme. IFFPG, which is a not-for-profit body, has recycled over 440,000 tonnes of farm plastics waste since its establishment in 1998.

The scheme, which is funded by both the industry and farmers and approved by the Minister for the Environment, is an excellent example of what can be achieved when all the key stakeholders come together to work for a better environment.

In 2022, IFFPG supplied almost half of all collected material to Irish facilities for processing into a range of new plastic products, thereby boosting the circular economy in Ireland. In the case of wrap and pit cover waste, both AND Materials in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan and SIS in Littleton, Co Tipperary recycle these wastes into pellets which are the building blocks for new products such as refuse sacks, garden furniture and piping.

While in the case of fertilizer bag waste, we see an excellent example of the circular economy in operation, with IFF Plastics in west Clare recycling this waste stream into fence posts for sale back to Irish farmers.