Farm Plastic Recycling

Farm Plastic Recycling

Recycling plastic waste for the agricultural sector

Plastic Expert provides a national farm plastic recycling service, helping to reduce costs, meet compliance and increase recycling rates. Due to the multitude of activities that are undertaken in the agricultural sector, a wide array of materials are used and then disposed of. Treating this waste responsibly helps to keep farms clean and efficient.

Plastic Expert can recycle most of the waste streams that are encountered in the agricultural industry. Our farm plastic recycling expertise can provide solutions for the following:

Agricultural Film

Silage Wrap – Commonly bales of hay are seen bound by a stretched film plastic, either black, white or green. Once the bale of hay has been opened for its agricultural purpose, the plastic is tossed to the side. This plastic can be recycled and should not be considered as general waste.

Crop Cover – Often known as ‘plastic mulch’, crop cover is an emerging material in the farm plastic recycling industry after years of being cited as an environmental hazard. This (often black) plastic covers the crops and is pierced with holes to allow the plastic to grow through it. The material conserves water and suppresses weeds, but many farmers don’t realise that even waste crop cover can be sold to recyclers.

Polytunnel – A Polytunnel is an elongated polythene covered frame that acts very similarly to a greenhouse and is used for the production of many plants while they are seedlings. The plastic material is beneficial as a solar conductor, but also because of how clean it can be kept, if it becomes redundant to the farm it can become incredibly useful as a recyclable plastic.

HDPE Canisters – Note: these should be triple washed before we receive them. HDPE canisters usually come in the form of 25l drums that are often used for the storage of feed, water, fertilizers or animal bi-products, such as milk. To be effectively recycled, the risk of decontamination must be minimised and as such, a thorough triple wash is necessary.

Trickle Tape/Drip Tape – Along the rows of plants on a farm lies a LDPE plastic product known as trickle tape. These are small plastic tubes with holes in them that allow liquids (mainly water) to be equally dispersed around an agricultural set up. As well as being pivotal to irrigation, trickle/drip tape is important to farm plastic recycling, as it is often disposed of and replaced every couple of years.

For additional agricultural plastic types, such as water membranes or heavy duty sacks, our dedicated team of account managers will be glad to assist and advise in the professional recycling of your material.


Farm Plastic Recycling

Agricultural Plastic Recycling Service Requirements

Plastic Expert accepts loose farm plastic recycling material at our facility in Hampshire, though we offer the alternative option of collecting baled materials from most locations nationwide. For a collection we will usually require full trailer loads; this should equate to an estimated 20 to 25 tonnes, depending on the bale specifications. Our comprehensive farm plastic recycling service is also well connected to baling equipment specialists or can arrange the collection of large loads using a walking floor trailer. It would be recommended for long term partners or those with a regular and substantial amount of agricultural plastic waste buildup to invest in baling equipment.

The material is used in a sustainable recycling process that involves our partner factory in Holland. This partnership allows us to effectively recycle a large amount of many types of plastic from a multitude of sources. Due to the consistency of demand, we will move your waste on quickly so you aren’t burdened.

Each load of agricultural plastic is processed through a state-of-the-art recycling line. The first step is to send the material through a trommel, extracting much of the mud and dirt. Continuing down the line, the material is shredded into a flake-like substance. The next step is to place the plastic into a washer to fully separate any remaining dirt. As a result of these thorough processes, a clean product is produced which can be moulded into a pellet. This pellet is the universal form in which plastic is traded for recycling and remanufacturing. Farm plastic is likely to end up as bin liners or even sometimes as new agricultural plastic!

Why Recycle Farm Plastic?

Reason 1: Legislation

Since May 2006, it has been illegal to burn or bury waste which might cause harm to the environment. As concerns over the burning of agricultural waste made their way into major media outlets, it was decided that something must be done to ensure this huge national waste stream did not damage the cherished British countryside. Waste plastic material from the agricultural sector must now be disposed of by authorised waste processors, of which we are a well respected and trusted outlet. Plastic Expert can ensure your organisation’s environmental compliance through our recycling programme. Failure to comply with these laws can result in heavy fines or other sanctions that can make farming activities challenging.

Reason 2. Environment

Plastic waste can be extremely damaging to the environment if it is not recycled or reused properly. Almost all plastic waste is not biodegradable and can damage the earth if left in the open countryside, posing an additional threat to wildlife. The chemical process of ‘leaching’ occurs when plastic is left exposed to the elements to decay, creating a toxic substance that soaks into the ground. In large quantities, this leached toxin can reach underground water sources and poison our water suppliers. Though this is an extreme possibility, avoiding environmental damage through your business efforts is widely respected, especially by potential customers. Respecting the environment in which your livestock may graze or your produce may grow is pivotal to the continued health and success of your farm.

Further legislation

Duty of care – In Layman’s terms, this means you and your business have a responsibility to ensure waste material is collected and disposed of correctly. Thankfully it’s now possible and simple to make money from these disposal activities. Due to this, it’s important to ask any waste collector or recycling facility for their relevant licences.

What counts as Farm Waste?

The correct treatment and disposal of the various types of farm waste depends greatly upon whether they are classified as hazardous or non-hazardous. One of the great challenges for the recycling industry is to avoid contamination, as it is guilty of ruining many recycling opportunities. Strict precautions are taken to avoid this from happening.

Non-Hazardous Waste

These are defined as non-hazardous as they have not come into contact with concentrated hazardous substances, such as fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides or animal medicines. Alternatively, they may have been in contact with these substances but have since been emptied and triple-rinsed. Therefore, these substances would be safe for recycling.

This includes wastes such as:

  • Tree guards
  • Silage films and wrap
  • Horticultural films (e.g. crop cover)
  • Bale twine and wrap
  • Other Plastics
  • Animal feed bags (only having been in contact with non-hazardous substances, or having been in contact with hazardous substances and then triple-rinsed)
  • Cardboard boxes (only having been in contact with non-hazardous substances)
  • Treatment guns that have not been in contact with hazardous medicines or infected animals
  • Unused syringes
  • Unused or uncontaminated disposable gloves

What is Triple Rinsing?

Whilst we’ve mentioned triple rinsing several times throughout this page, we’ve yet to cover what it really means. This short guide on how to triple rinse your plastic drums will serve as invaluable information for anyone considering our farm plastic recycling service.

To start with, empty the drum to its lowest possible level, before filling a quarter of the drum with water. Seal the lid, tip the drum on its side and roll it for at least thirty seconds, completing at least one full revolution. Stand the drum on its end and tip it back and forth to rinse the corners, then put the drum on its other end and do the same. Tip out the water to a safe container. Repeat this procedure two more times to thoroughly rinse the interior. Throw away the cap and drill a hole in the base of the drum so it becomes useless to anyone other than a professional recycler.

Crop Cover Recycling

What Can Farmers Do With Their Waste?

There are many different options open to farmers regarding the disposal of their recyclable waste, and these options differ depending on the type of waste, as stated above. However, for the agricultural waste materials that cannot be recycled, there are two other options.


This is an option for all types of waste, however, depending on the waste type, different charges apply. For “inactive waste” (i.e. soil, rocks), the charge is relatively low, whereas for “standard waste” (anything else), the charge is significantly higher. It is illegal to dispose of hazardous waste at landfill. Landfill rates are constantly rising and are becoming somewhat ludicrous. It is not only profitable to sell recyclable farm waste, but also to avoid dumping it!


It is illegal to burn waste general waste; the law only allows for the open burning of animal carcasses, though there are still regulations governing this. The incinerator, whether for a single farm or shared between farms, needs to be approved by the local authority.

Plastic Expert’s Farm Plastic Recycling Service

To conclude, our service is not only compliant to legislation, it will make you money, save you money, protect the environment and provide positive environmental attributes to your business that can be used as a powerful selling tool to stakeholders and potential customers.

Call our dedicated account managers today on 0845 366 9306 to discuss what options will best suit your agricultural set-up.

We are not a one-size-fits-all type of business and will measure our service to suit our partners.