Dairy Australia’s innovative Silage Plastic Recycling Trial in Western Victoria has been successfully completed. The lessons learned are now being used to work with private industry to develop a long-term solution for responsible disposal of plastic on farms.
The objective of the silage recycling project was to develop a practical and cost-effective solution for managing farm plastics, and dairy silage wraps and covers.
The project, which was supported by the Commonwealth’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund, ran for over two years. It started with desk-top studies and investigations into international best-practice prior to moving into a pilot trial in Western Victoria.
Following an expression of interest process, close to 160 farms volunteered to participate in the trial, with 90 farms chosen to take part.
The pilot trial began in April 2022 and by the time it was successfully completed in March 2023, 64 tonnes of silage plastic – equivalent to around 50,000 silage bales worth of plastic – were collected and recycled. This plastic waste, which would otherwise have gone into landfill, was then processed into material that could be used to make a range of recycled plastic products.
The trial tested three different on-farm plastic storage methods and farmers were offered the option of a paid on-farm collection service or free drop off at one of five local waste transfer sites. It was supported by Corangamite Shire, Moyne Shire and Colac-Otway Shire Councils, which allowed the project to make use of waste transfer stations for farmers to drop off their plastic.
Ultimately, the project allowed Dairy Australia to identify a preferred farm plastic collection and transportation model. This has been tested by farmers, meets the requirements of recyclers and is competitive with existing practices.
Dairy Australia’s Program Manager for Manufacturing Innovation and Sustainability, Ian Olmstead, said that the trial in Western Victoria had been positively received by the farmers involved.
“There is overwhelming support for the continuation of a silage plastic collection and recycling scheme for the region,” said Olmstead.
“The project team worked closely with key stakeholders including plastic suppliers, plastics re-processors, dairy and cattle farmers, and other successful product stewardship schemes to ensure that the systems developed remain practical for farmers and commercially realistic for all involved.”
As a result of this project, Ian said Dairy Australia is currently working with commercial company Plasback, which will seek to build on the silage plastic collection service offered to date in Western Victoria. Plasback operates a successful collection service of plastic wastes for rural communities in New Zealand.
“Plasback will take the lessons learned from the Dairy Australia trial – as well as what has been learned from their own experience previously operating a silage plastic recycling scheme here and in New Zealand – to offer Australian farmers a sustainable service for plastic disposal,” Olmstead said.
Details of Plasback’s eventual service offering are currently being finalised. It is anticipated that collection and recycling services will initially be offered in Victoria, before expanding to other regions nationally depending on demand and availability of suitable local collection and recycling infrastructure.
For more information, visit Silage Plastic Recycling Scheme | Dairy Australia