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Eastern promise

For years now, the agricultural industry in Eastern Europe has been recycling farm plastics. Seen as a relatively valuable commodity in a society that thinks twice about throwing away useful materials, recycling farming plastic is big business in the former communist block. Evolution Projects is working closely with Italian recycling machinery manufacturers PRT and a contaminated plastics recycling plant based in Hungary to explore opportunities in the UK.

Revealing an interesting new insight into recycling, the Hungarian plant is currently reprocessing post industrial and post agricultural plastics with up to 40% contamination. These plastics are converted into a high-specification polyethylene pellet, which is then used to manufacture polythene films, bags, drainage pipe and gas pipe all on one site.

After securing UK and Ireland distribution for PRT, Evolution took a closer look at what markets the company was selling to outside the UK. Mick Young, sales and marketing director of Evolution Projects, was surprised to find that a plant in Hungary has been recycling agricultural film for several years and producing a consistently high quality of material output. Says Young: I went across to take a look for myself and was impressed by the recently installed PRT plant and how it was run alongside their existing 15-year-old plant, which is now being decommissioned. The PRT equipment needs little attention and the facility only requires a small resource to operate viably. It processes approximately 8,000 tonnes a year (not counting the organic contamination). It seemed to me that replicating the Hungarian plant in regions across the UK could be the solution to our used agricultural plastics problem and a possible alternative to exporting baled post industrial films to China.

UK farms create an estimated 122,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually. Of this approximately 25,000 tonnes is generated from silage producers in the form of stretch film wrap, silage sheeting and silage bags. Currently it is thought that approximately 47% goes to landfill or is incinerated with only about 12% being recycled to varying levels of quality.

Proposed legislation is aimed at discouraging landfill and burning, and new ways need to be found to deal with tonnage. There are some attractive grants available for agricultural recycling and our aim is to help our clients as much as possible to secure supplementary funding. These are important considerations and will impact on the profitability following an investment of this sort.

A typical PRT recycling system handles crop cover and silage wrap, but has the ability to be easily adapted to reprocess a number of different waste plastic streams including most contaminated farm plastics. There is very little wastage as separated materials are collected throughout the process and either re-introduced into the system or collected for selling on. It can also handle other contaminated plastics such as containers and bottles. A wastewater treatment sub-system is also included to re-introduce highly purified water into the local environment. Organic material is separated for further processing before it can be re-introduced back on to the land.



Enquiries

Mirco Neri, managing director of PRT, the company that commissioned the Hungarian plant, commented: Since installing the site we have had many enquiries for the technology worldwide. This is because it can accept the farmers plastic waste with very high contamination levels and convert it directly into high specification LDPE pellets. Since other waste streams can also be processed, investors see the plant as low risk because it is not dependant on just one market sector.

The biggest challenge ahead seen by Evolution is in the change of attitude needed within the UK farming community towards recycling. Legislation may occur as soon as January 2005 and financial incentives are available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the development of agricultural plasti

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