During their lifetime, plastic-based products such as films, bale nets, yarns, irrigation hoses and packaging act as versatile and highly 5 valuable aides to the agricultural economy. Yet, at the end of their useful service life, they turn into awkward waste requiring disposal. Into the container and off to landfill – that is the most frequently-chosen and, at the same time, worst route. There is a lot of good will to do things better amongst those involved. But there is still a lack of 10 sustainable and practical disposal concepts in the majority of European countries. A recently-formed working group by the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations (EPRO) is now working on the development of new, forward-thinking solutions to address this issue.
A lack of recovery concepts for a huge waste stream
The total amount of plastics used in agriculture is considerable. Almost half are processed for use in films. Approximately 1.2 million tons of agricultural plastics require disposal each year, yet only 22 20 percent of this amount is recycled. Over half, more than 600,000 tons, ends up in landfill. Around 26 percent is used for energetic recovery.
There is enormous room for improvement in these figures. To date it is only a handful of European countries that have efficient systems. 25 They are either the result of legal requirements, such as in Ireland or Iceland, or of voluntary industrial, trade and agricultural initiatives. (for instance in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and Spain).
Since February 2010, RIGK has been successfully providing its nationwide service PELLE for the recycling of used agricultural films. Provided 30 in partnership with the manufacturer RKW SE, bale nets and yarns have been added to this service as of this year (www.pelle-netti.de).
In the majority of European countries – particularly in Eastern Europe – there is still no controlled recovery system. Pan-European legislation relating to the recovery of non-packaging plastics used in 35 agriculture does not exist.
International EPRO working party to develop effective, cost-efficient solutions
At the start of March 2011, EPRO initiated a new, cross-border work group entitled 'Agricultural-Plastics'. It currently has 14 members 40 from France, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Great Britain, Spain, Belgium and Romania. The majority of its members are representatives of national, established or emerging recovery schemes.
Expert group lays foundations
The group's overriding intentions are the exchange of information on existing disposal solutions, the ecological and economical enhancement of existing recovery systems and the provision of support for new systems in countries where, to date, no activities in this regard have been undertaken. A further objective of the group is 50 the initiation of intensive discussions with external partners from industry, trade and agriculture.
A European forum combining theory with practice
EPRO (European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery
Organisations, www.epro-plasticsrecycling.org) is an association of the national companies, charged with organising and promoting recycling and recovery of plastics throughout Europe. Each EPRO member is working to meet and exceed requirements set by EU and national packaging directives. EPRO provides a unique forum:
- to exchange and publish information and experiences, - to develop improved strategies for prevention and recovery of plastics waste with regard to the EU thematic strategy, - to support projects designed to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of recycling and recovery concepts, 65 - to evaluate new technologies and
- to stimulate improved quality and value of used plastics on a scientific basis. RIGK GmbH has been a member of EPRO since 2006 and, under the 70 leadership of Jan Bauer, has formed the working party for the recycling of agricultural plastics.
Further Information: RIGK GmbH Jan Bauer - Tel.: +49 (0)6 11/30 86 00-16 E-Mail: email@example.com 80