The FUW has called on the Welsh Government to create a Welsh Farm Plastics task-force in order to tackle the growing problem of farm plastic waste.
In a letter to Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths, FUW President Glyn Roberts highlighted the fact that Birch Farm Plastics recently suspended plastic waste collection for all of 2019, having been collecting and recycling farm plastic in Wales for a period of 30 years, and that this was just one symptom of a growing problem affecting the industry and food supply chain as a whole.
Mr Roberts had already written to the Minister earlier in the year highlighting the need for action to be taken, in response to which Lesley Griffiths acknowledged that it is important to collect and treat waste farm plastics and have sufficient facilities for this.
however, Mr Roberts expressed his disappointment that Welsh Government had recently stated in the media, that: “The disposal of farm plastic is a commercial matter between the farmers, the collectors of the plastic film waste, and the plants that can and do recycle it. Farmers have a responsibility to ensure their plastic is disposed of correctly.”
“I do not believe that this reflects the full role government must play when it comes to mitigating the impact of the collapse of a supply chain over which farmers have no control,” said Mr Roberts.
For many years China was a main destination for waste plastics, but in early 2018 it closed its doors to foreign plastic waste, leaving countries around the world struggling to find destinations to send their waste.
A great deal of waste was then redirected to Malaysia, but that country has now announced that it will not accept waste
and will send back around 3,000 metric tonnes of used plastic to countries including the UK.
Mr Roberts said that the growing problems around the globe in relation to plastic disposal, and the recognition of the damage non-biodegradable plastics were causing to the environment, including marine life, meant action needed to be taken.
“It is totally understandable that these countries do not want to be the dumping ground of western societies, and that means there are both short and long term challenges when it comes to tackling this issue, not only for agriculture but for all industries,” said Mr Roberts.
“The challenges facing our food supply chain in its entirety are extremely significant due to the role plastics play in preserving both animal fodder and human foodstuffs.
“In the long run it is imperative that more sustainable solutions are found that ensure products are made from sustainable resources and are genuinely recyclable or biodegradable, but nevertheless continue to work effectively for farmers, their livestock and the supply chain.”
Mr Roberts said the rapid and effective development of such new technologies can only happen with governments guiding, assisting and, where necessary, at the helm, but given the immediate and growing challenges faced by the farming industry, action was also needed to tackle problems that were literally mounting up on farmyards and other sites across Wales.
“This matter needs urgent attention, and a Welsh Farm Plastics task-force which considers long and short term measures and solutions would be a positive pre-emptive move,” he added.