Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Fifth Report


  I am writing to you with regard to the problem of disposal of waste farm plastics on behalf of the FFCG.

  All FFCG members are farmers who were agents for the companies previously involved with the recovery of farm polythene for recycling, throughout the UK.

  This plastic is used for wrapping and storing of silage and concentrates (animal feed). Around 60,000 tonnes of waste farm plastic is in need of disposal every year and this figure is likely to increase.

  A meeting was held at the DETR on 3 November 2000 to try and establish a solution to the problem.

  Representatives of FFCG, Environment Agency, MAFF, CLA, NFU, British Polythene Industries, British Plastics Federation, UKASTA and PIFA attended the meeting.

  Although the DETR is preparing a Consultation Paper to include farm plastic as a controlled waste under the Duty of Care, the general feeling of the various representatives at the above meeting was that a national waste collection scheme, underpinned by legislation is required.

  To assist with your understanding of this matter I shall endeavour to outline the history of previous schemes to collect waste plastics from farms for recycling.

  In 1989, British Polythene Industries set up a national voluntary scheme (Second Life Plastics Ltd) for the recovery and recycling of waste silage film, feed and fertiliser bags, at no cost to the farmer.

The National Farmers Union, MAFF and DOE supported this scheme.

  A recycling plant was set up at Ardeer in Scotland to recycle the waste into pit liners, land stabilisation blocks etc.

  The scheme experienced financial difficulties in 1993 due to the high cost of collection of the waste because of contamination of soil, slurry etc.

  It was actually cheaper to import waste film from Belgium and Germany for recycling purposes, as it was less contaminated due to the legislative schemes in those countries.

  The Farm Film Producers Group was set up by the plastics films industry under the guidance of PIFA (Packaging and Industrial Films Association). In December 1994, FFPG purchased Second Life Plastics Ltd from BPI and established a voluntary levy funding scheme of £100 per tonne of plastic sold in England, Scotland and Wales. Members of FFPG charged this levy (Environmental Protection Contribution) on all tonnes of silage sheet and stretch bale wrap (about 7p/bale) and paid the funds generated to independent accountants, KPMG. The money collected was used to fund the film waste collection activities and the necessary administrative arrangements. This included the payment of £80/tonne to local agents who acted as regional collectors (FFCG).

  The material was transported to Ardeer and to Dumfries for recycling into fencing posts, garden furniture, architectural bollards etc.

  An importer acting for an EU manufacturer and another importer acting for an USA manufacturer declined to join the scheme and sought commercial advantage from not applying the environmental levy. Such unfair competition could not be tolerated without serious loss of business by FFPG members who were therefore compelled to wind up the scheme in 1997.

  During the final year of the scheme, over 6000 tonnes of waste plastic was recycled.

  I am sure that you will agree that the system outlined above was remarkably efficient both in recycling and in protecting our environment.

  It was a self-financing scheme with no direct subsidies from Government.

  When farmers paid a levy on purchase of their polythene, they demanded collection of their waste plastics. Now they bury or burn their waste plastic, as they do not have an alternative. Often it can be seen littering the countryside.

  Due to the fact that Duty of Care was not working in the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Government has introduced legislation to underpin a voluntary scheme, based on the previous FFPG scheme.

  Manufacturers and importers can join an existing compliance scheme (Irish Farm Film Producers Group) by paying £100 per tonne produced, or register with the Environment Agency and pay £250 per tonne produced with the opportunity of recovering 50 per cent of that sum, if they can prove that the waste material has been recovered for recycling at a later date.

  On this basis, it is understandable why all producers and importers are participating in the IFFPG scheme.

  I would ask you, as a matter of urgency to enquire to the relevant parties concerned why common sense can not prevail to enable primary or secondary legislation to ensure a previously successful scheme can be operational again. In 1998, a Consultation Paper on problems of disposal of farm plastics was issued by the DETR, but no statement has been issued of the result of that consultation.

  Although two years has gone by since the consultation, we are no further forwards in obtaining a decision from Government.

  Therefore, we ask you, as a Member of Parliament to support legislation of this option of dealing with the problem of waste farm plastics for the benefit of the environment, country dwellers and urban visitors alike.

Marilyn Birch

December 2000

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