It is widely considered and generally accepted nowadays that the amount of plastic used – across all industries and sectors has been extremely damaging to the environment and our wildlife.
Some facts about plastic:
300 million tonnes are produced annually across the globe
50% is single use only
Only 10% is recycled
12% is incinerated
8 million tonnes enter our oceans each year
Current estimates are 150 tonnes of plastic circulating our ocean
This is before we even think about the plastic waste we often see dumped or littered around the countryside, which gamekeepers themselves normally feel the need to pick up to protect local wildlife. Current predictions state that single use plastics can take anywhere between 20 and 1,000 years to breakdown.
In 2020, a DEFRA survey reported that 33% of farms stated the greatest barriers preventing recycling recyclable plastic on farms was the lack of knowledge or uncertainty as to who can collect the waste. As a company, we can confirm that this is something we to are regularly asked.
Although agriculture produces only 4% of the total UK plastic usage, that still amounts to 85,000 tonnes produced annually, (Resource 19/11/2019- DEFRA 2010). Furthermore, only 35% (less than 30,000 tonnes) of agri-plastics are collected for recycling (APE UK).
Like most industries, game shooting too results in a sizeable amount of plastic waste. From shotgun cartridges to feed bags – plastic usage is essential in certain aspects of what we do.
However, unlike so many sectors that claim to be becoming ‘proactively’ greener – often increasing the use of plastic and emissions, yet simply offsetting this through other routes – there are several genuinely effective, successful initiatives in the countryside that are taking the battle against plastic pollution into their own hands; and doing fantastic work!
These initiatives cover plastic from both game shooting and wider agriculture. And, with larger industry players becoming interested, the game shooting industry can hold its head high and know it’s doing its part.
Green Tractor Scheme
Operating across all areas of the UK, The Green Tractor Scheme provides sustainable solutions for plastic used across all sectors of agriculture in the UK. The primary focus of the scheme is the collection and processing of waste farm plastic, with the initiatives ultimate ambition being to provide UK agriculture with the ability to recycle all farm plastic by 2030! They operate on a not-for-profit basis – with membership fees used to meet the schemes objectives.
The scheme covers the significant majority of the UK’s collectors, and provides shared responsibility for farm plastic across the entire supply chain. The first plastic recycling survey, covering roughly 80% of members, shows that 19,974 tonnes in 2018 and 24,149 tonnes in 2019 were collected. Nearly all of the plastic was sent for recycling, with only 4% going to landfill.
According to Elle at The Green Tractor Scheme:
“The Green Tractor Scheme is a scheme of excellence that guarantees farm plastic waste has been handled and disposed of correctly, and in the best possible environmental way. We provide vehicle & window stickers that can be used either in offices or inside/outside vehicles. Collector members and their customers can display these with pride, in the knowledge that the farm plastic has been treated correctly, in line with industry guidelines and the Green Tractor code of excellence”.
The scheme has five membership levels, each designed for a different sector –
- Farmer member – Free membership to any UK farm business using a Green Tractor collector to recycle their farm plastic
- Collector member – Open to all current collectors, and new collectors subject to board approval
- Affiliated membership – Open to all non-suppliers of farm plastic, NGOs etc
- Supplier membership – Open to all businesses supplying plastic in any form to UK agriculture
- Premier membership – Open to all business supplying plastic in any form to UK agriculture, who would like to have a high level of association with the scheme
The Green Tractor scheme has noted that there has already been considerable progress within the agricultural industry with regard to plastic. They also state that there have been positive developments within the packaging sector to reduce the use of virgin plastics in the manufacture of new products. Typical polythene feed bags now contain 50% less material used in their production than bags that first entered the market.
For further information on The Green Tractor Scheme, head over to their website HERE.
There are many companies involved in the collection and recycling of plastic waste including Farm XS, run by Mark Webb. However, Agri-Cycle has more than a foot in the door when it comes to the shooting sector.
Lincolnshire based Agri-Cycle began farm plastic waste recycling back in 2004 in response to the introduction of EU legislation regarding the handling and disposal of agricultural waste. After collection, the farm plastic waste from their customers is returned to the Agri-Cycle head office, where it is washed, shredded and processed at their purpose built site.
The success of Agri-Cycle has led them to become one of the main collectors and processors of farm plastic waste in The Green Tractor Scheme – collecting for the scheme across all areas of the UK, including Northern Ireland.
Over the last four years, whilst still dealing with farm plastic waste, Agri-Cycle has also turned its attention to the game shooting industry. This was following on from concerning levels of spent shotgun cartridges that many were disposing of in ways that weren’t as environmentally responsible as they could be.
Now, Agri-Cycle offer a collection or drop-off service for small game shoots, larger game shoots and clay grounds. The small bags they provide for spent cartridges hold 12,000, whilst the larger bags they offer can hold up to 21,500 cartridges with the option of a skip to hold approximately 70,000 – perfect for commercial shoots or clay shoots.
The figures to date are extremely impressive. The Agri-Cycle plant recycles in excess of 100 million spent cartridges per year. The metal part goes for scrap and the plastic part is washed and granulated, and then used to make drainage pipes or benches across the UK. Due to their work with The Green Tractor Scheme, they have collectors and drop off points across the UK.
The scheme already has the support of many of the UK clay shooting grounds, but their work hasn’t stopped; with Agri-Cycle currently in on going initiatives with other organisations.
Another company that is becoming increasingly engaged with recycling in the shooting sector is Mil-tek UK – who produce waste balers and compactors. With a bale of plastic carrying some value, we hope to see this become a genuine income stream for some if enough plastic bags are processed. Whether this be for an individual or a collective.
1,000 empty plastic feed bags; 25 tonnes equivalent of feed would weigh approx. 120 kgs once compacted into a bale.
There are a few options; a small compactor on farm or a much bigger one (no bigger than the footprint of a skip) that could be shared within a region. We hope to see this kind of technology continue to be taken up by the sector.
A Sustainable Future
As we can see, the game shooting industry – and the agriculture industry in the UK – have been aware of the perils of plastic polluting the countryside and the wider environment for many years.
Schemes such as The Green Tractor and Agri-Cycle demonstrate the sustainable ethics and the value that individuals and organisations in our sector place on the environment. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise considering the work so many of us do to manage wildlife and land across the UK.
At Keepers Choice, we too are looking at how we can encourage our customers to re-use feed bags and recycle them correctly – something they can do via The Green Tractor Scheme and Agri-Cycle.
Our 135 micron heavy duty polythene feed bags carry 25Kg in weight and we have customers who use anything from 40 to in excess of 30,000 bags per year. We can go a long way to making our industry even more sustainable by using one of the schemes mentioned above.
If you would like to learn more about how to recycle your feed bags, please don’t hesitate to head over to one of the links above or contact us via our website.