29 March 1996

NOW FILM WASTE CRISIS LOOMS

By James de Havilland

THE Farm Film Producers Group (FPPG), which operates the Farm Films Recovery Scheme, says its funding methods have been suspended for 1996.

Collecting over 3800t of waste plastics from 4000 farms throughout the UK last year, the project has been paid for by an Environmental Protection Contribution – a film levy – made by 16 silage film companies.

But a number of importers refused to join this voluntary scheme, because it enabled them to sell their film cheaper.

"The result was that many of the founding companies of the Recovery Scheme found it difficult to compete with these importing companies," says FFPG chairman, David Pendlebury, who adds that survival of FFPG has only been made possible by a core group of companies who continue to fund the project.

"These companies remain committed to helping the UK farming community meet existing environmental laws. By continuing the scheme throughout 1996, we hope to give all interested parties the opportunity to discuss the way forward with FFPG.

"But if the obstacles cannot be overcome, the scheme will be in jeopardy by 1997."

The problem of plastic disposal will not go away though. Mr Pendlebury believes farmers will increasingly come under pressure to comply with existing environmental legislation, and is convinced the FFPG scheme offers the best solution.

"At present we are recycling perhaps a quarter of the film used on UK farms," explains Mr Pendlebury. "The scheme has been extremely successful. But government guidelines on voluntary schemes have always stated that they should receive industry-wide support. This has not been the case with FFPG."

Even so, a specialist plant has now been built in Scotland to wash the incoming film before it goes on for recycling to produce products ranging from pallets to plastic fencing material.

The existing Freephone Hotline (0800-833749) will continue to operate, and farmers are urged to continue using it to ensure as much material as possible is recovered in 1996.

"If the scheme fails then farmers will be faced with the task of plastic disposal themselves – like the rest of industry. Tighter controls may well mean this will be costly," warns Mr Pendlebury.

&#8226 Companies continuing to support the scheme are Amplas, Anaplast, Autobar, Bonar Polythene, BP Chemicals, Brithene (Widnes) Films, British Visqueen, Clingtech, IP Europe, Lakufol and Trioplastic. &#42

UK farmers use vast quantities of plastic film each year. Disposal of the waste product is a problem that will

not go away, says the Farm Film Producers Group.