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Bruce Wills wants all farmers to embrace the principles of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You agree?

Rural News
Bruce Wills wants all farmers to embrace the principles of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You agree?

By Bruce Wills

If you know a strong wool grower drag them to a computer, bring up and don’t let them leave until they have read the prospectus and come to a decision.

The Wools of New Zealand investment opportunity closes at 5pm this Friday, 14 December.

Being a postal deadline it means reaching a decision early this week.

Speaking personally as a sheep farmer, I have put my money where my mouth is and have posted in my application.

As the President of Federated Farmers, this is of course a private business decision. We talk about wanting control over our future to create a viable future for wool and to me this is it.

It perhaps represents the last chance saloon for a farmer-led response.

So farmers, don’t let Wools of New Zealand become the beginning of the end, make it the end of wool's new beginning.

Speaking of new beginnings has got me thinking about recycling. Do you know that every year, New Zealand’s farms and orchards go through something like 10 million litres in agricultural and veterinary chemicals?

That is enough to fill four Olympic sized swimming pools and is just what comes in plastic containers.

If that that sounds vast and it is, it pales beside the six billion litres of petrol and diesel vehicles consume each year in New Zealand. Or, for that matter, the 550 billion litres of residential wastewater that is flushed down pipes every single year.

I guess this underscores the many effects we humans have upon our environment. Being a non-organic farmer, I try to minimise what I use but believe chemicals have a role to play if properly used. That includes disposal.

Farms just like every home or business in New Zealand collect plastics, metals and all sorts of other materials. As metals have economic value, there has been some creative thievery with false metal dealers taking scrap metal, but never paying for it.

When it comes to plastics it is a different story and farming has been behind the eight-ball. That attitude is shifting with farmers wanting to do the right thing, but until recently we have lacked the means and the opportunity.

Take the baled silage wrap you see on farms. This is needed to protect supplemental feed but is a one-shot thing and we consume a vast amount each year - 4,000 tonnes in fact. If you want to know what that looks like, picture the navy frigate Te Kaha and the patrol vessel Hawera together.

Before you think this is a sermon form the mount about what farmers ought to do, this week Federated Farmers announced we had joined forces with the Agrecovery Foundation. Federated Farmers is on the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ wave. The last thing we want is for chemicals to be forgotten about or the containers they came in dispatched to landfill.

Agrecovery is about disposing of unwanted chemicals and containers, silage wrap and even, crop protection netting. This has got to be good for the environment. Recycling is also one way we can turn a perceived environmental negative into a big positive. We have leadership in almost all aspects of production and animal husbandry while ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is about efficient resource use.

This is not ‘green washing’ either because actions speak louder than words.

While we have taken over the baton from HortNZ, they deserve praise for Agrecovery’s momentum. We will build on that with help from our horticultural colleagues and extend it deep into the pastoral sector, where some 40 percent of agricultural and veterinary chemicals are being used.

It seems natural to step up our role because Federated Farmers helped create the QEII National Trust in the 1970’s. A Trust that currently protects land covering an area greater than several National Parks combined. I know, as I have several QEII covenants on my farm. Federated Farmers was also behind the formation of the Landcare Trust with my Board colleague, Ian Mackenzie, being a Trustee.

Federated Farmers is unsurprisingly, a strong backer of the New Zealand Farm Environmental Awards too. If there is an award designed to cure cynicism this is surely it.

When it comes to Agrecovery itself, we have been a part of it from the very beginning and another Board colleague, Anders Crofoot, represents us on the Agrecovery Foundation Trust.

As I said actions speak louder than words and allied to Agrecovery’s ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ message is sustainability. It is a great programme we are honoured to be a part of, so check out


Bruce Wills is the President of Federated Farmers. You can contact him here »

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So Bruce, you say we use 4,000 tonnes of silage wrap, whats the recovery rate?  You should have access to a figure.

 I dont think I can do much about Vet  Chemicals, as most of what I buy from a Vet goes down the throat of my animals.

Why not make the firms selling the containers responible for the containers recovery, as is the case in Germany?


 Most Polar fleece is recycled plastic, so competes with wool, could you tell where the recycled plastic goes?


 You are giving me the warm fuzzy's, NZ ag is so green and clean, just dont compare us.


Credit where credit's due, Bruce.


Good on'ya for the effort.


PDK, farmers are meant to be recycling silage wrap for the last 10 years, just watched a local burn a huge pile of it.


AJ - too true, but....


If you keep knocking them, they'll do nothing at all. It's a bit like my comment re Callaghan earlier; better perhaps to help them learn to wear lifejackets, than to have a debate over why they might be needed.


Further cogitation suggests there's not much happening in BigAg which is about 'Reduce', either.


It's all about growth, and so massive has been that growth (growth always ends up being massive) recently, that whether we burn all the wrap or not, probably doesn't equate to the increased degradation.


It's all about standing back far enough that everything comes into perspective - listen to George Mobus on Sunday/Laidlaw?



Is there anyone producing a silage wrap that is made using bio-plastic or similar plastic that naturally degrades say.........over a couple of years? Can it be done?

Must it be plastic (airtight) ? or can/could it be done using a natural fibre waste product or for that matter, flax or hemp? 

Just trying to think outside the box on this issue

Can you find alternative agricultural industry uses for it like say strawberry/berry fruit farmers who use plastic film also ?  

I applaud ANY green alternatives farmers can come up with. 



The good news is that balage is getting so expensive that its pricing itself off the market for many. In fact even conventional hay has been hard to sell, I have a barn full from last year, unsold over winter.   I think one of the interesting issues facing NZ ag is the growing awareness that you can produce less and improve profits, as the costs climb I'm expecting  production to fall.



Very true Andrew, costing out the fert, baleage making, fuel and use of tractor and machinery to feed it out. Then fixing the tracks after the tractor has done its damage. Its just not a money making proposal these days. Since I stopped doing it, I started paying tax...damn a profit...bugger

Kudos to Bruce to keep this subject on the agenda. I find this little household has a lot of rubbish to dump each week. Not so much from the farm. But the household stuff is the problem. I conciously avoid food packaging. Yet I would easy have 2 big rubbish sacks of biffo. And no recycling offered out here.