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Completed project

Innovative ways to address waste management on vegetable farms (VG13109)

Key research provider: RMCG
Publication date: Friday, June 5, 2015

What was it all about?

This project investigated how best to deal with plastic waste from vegetable farms. The research team conducted a literature review and engaged with the industry, growers, plastic providers and plastic processors to: 

  • Determine the key sources, management, volume and cost of on-farm plastic by state and growing region
  • Identify different plastic processing opportunities, together with financial costs and benefits and the logistics of each option
  • Assess the feasibility of available and emerging processing opportunities for on-farm plastic waste.

Researchers found that all producers have to manage on-farm plastics to some extent.

The work focussed on the following products: 

  • Irrigation pipe
  • Plastic mulch sheeting
  • Polytunnels and protective housing
  • Trays e.g. seedlings, bed trays
  • Chemical containers.

The researchers concluded that:

  • The quantity of plastic used in the agricultural sector is a small component (4 per cent) of overall national plastic consumption

  • Use of plastic varies with the type of crop produced and therefore by region

  • There are six types of plastic to be considered, each with particular characteristics including varying lifespans

  • The main plastics considered a problem to growers are plastic mulch and drip line irrigation, which are annual use plastics that occur in large volumes where they are used

  • It is illegal to burn or bury plastic waste although landfill is an option for some growers

  • The cost-effectiveness of recycling is determined by how close producers are to plastic processing facilities or ports, and other factors such as the international plastic prices

  • There are also technological barriers to recycling some key plastics, particularly plastic mulch, although a number of technological advancements may improve the situation

  • The development of a photodegradable plastic mulch product has practical limitations as well as questions about its performance, and requires further development

  • A lack of understanding by processors about on-farm plastic, and by growers about plastics collectors operating in their area, is another barrier, but the recently developed FARM MUSTER program may help.
Related levy funds


Funding statement:
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2015. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).