New culture emerging in farm waste disposal

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 06:07 18/11/2013

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Younger generations of farmers are turning around the practices of their parents and grandparents when it comes to dealing with waste.

Each year about 209,000 tonnes of waste is produced by farms in Canterbury - about 24 tonnes a farm.

In a recent Environment Canterbury (ECan) report, 53 farms from a cross-section of dairy, livestock, viticulture and small holdings were asked to record waste quantities, disposal practices and farmer opinions.

More than 50 different types of waste were found on farms, including netting, tyres and animal health products.

The report estimated 490 tonnes, or nine tonnes a farm, of non-natural rural waste were produced annually.

Another 740 tonnes of organic waste and about 26 tonnes of domestic waste were produced by the 53 farms.

ECan non-natural rural waste project manager Isla Hepburn said 92 per cent of those surveyed were either bulk-storing, burning or burying waste.

The likely environmental effect still needed to be quantified, she said.

"The younger farmers appeared to be more aware of what recycling options were available and showed a willingness to try new things," Hepburn said. "They wanted to do the right thing and they wanted to understand what that was and how they could achieve that."

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said younger generations were improving when it came to recycling and sustainable practices. His organisation, which has been in existence about 100 years, started an AgRecovery rural recycling programme about two years ago to encourage farmers to recycle.

"This is the thing to do now. For future generations, we need to do this stuff."

Wills said recycling needed to be made accessible and preferably free.

"We strongly encourage farmers to recycle everything they possibly can. It is important. We need to do it more, not less, and the next generation will do it better than we are."

It was a journey that involved a "cultural change", he said.

Hepburn said although it was a Canterbury study, there were likely to be similar findings in other parts of the country.

The next steps included a risk assessment, ensuring farmers knew what options were available for disposing of waste, and working collaboratively with organisations and farmers, she said.

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