The program has recycled 1500km of drip tube this year, yielding 110 tonnes of resin that has been turned into irrigation pipe and plastic-coated vineyard posts.
It is a rare recycling success story in a tough market since China stopped importing plastic waste in January 2018, effectively reducing the value of recycled plastic in Australia to zero.
The project is managed by Adelaide-based business Sustaining Endeavour in partnership with Netafim Australia, Woodshield and Recycling Plastics Australia (RPA).
Sustaining Endeavour tracks the amount of end-of-life drip tube available for recycling in various regions of South Australia and schedules consignments for recycling with RPA.
Netafim and Woodshield then purchase the recycled resin from RPA. Woodshield uses it to produce its posts for the viticulture, aquaculture, equine and agriculture industries while Netafim uses the resin to make general purpose LDPE irrigation pipe for use by nurseries, landscapers, horticulturalists and some vineyards.
With the help of grants and Sustaining Endeavour as project manager, Netafim has also funded the purchase of three re-coiling machines, which are owned by regional supply partners in the South Australian wine regions of McLaren Vale, Barossa and Langhorne Creek.
When a grower goes in to buy irrigation supplies to replace their old drip tube, the supply store offers to loan the recoiling machine to safely recoil their used drip tube. This allows for denser bundles of drip tube for recycling, easing the freight burden for the grower.
Sustaining Endeavour manager Uma Preston said while plastic recycling programs were common among packaging producers, they were extremely rare when it came to durables.
“What we’ve done here is demonstrate what can be done to manage end of life plastic – it’s a pragmatic response and it shifts a grower’s focus when they need a recycling solution beyond ‘I need my waste gone’,” she said.
“But it needs commitment from the whole supply chain.
“It’s not just recyclers that you need, you also need manufacturers who are prepared to take the recycled resin and then you want growers to support the recycled (end) products.
“For a long-term sustainable model you need a perfect circular economy where the commitments are matched all the way around the circle.”
Netafim has been recycling its dripper tube for several years but the partnership with Sustainable Endeavours, which began in the 2016/17 financial year, has formalised the program and led to higher volumes from more wine regions.
Sustainable Endeavour collected 43 tonnes of drip tubing in its first year mainly from the South Australian wine region of McLaren Vale but stopped when the …
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