| 7.4°C Dublin

Emerald out to sparkle on plastic scene

The recycled farm plastic business is set to become more competitive with the arrival of a newcomer to the market this week.

Antrim-based Emerald Isle Plastics already supplies and collects silage plastic from farmers in Northern Ireland through an exclusive deal it has with the Ulster Farmers' Union.

In the space of five years, it has built up to the point where owner Roy Livingston estimates that it collects 35pc of all the farm plastic in the North.

The company has only started supplying plastic to farmers in the past two years.

While the publicity surrounding Emerald Isle's first foray into the Republic claims that the firm wants to save farmers ever having to buy plastic by 'leasing' it to them, Mr Livingston admits that this is purely a publicity stunt.

"We intend to sell all the main brands of plastic to farmers at a price that is in line with other plastic suppliers," he said. "We'll then collect the plastic from them at no extra charge."

Initially, the company is focusing on bale wrap and will be supplying brands such as Silawrap. Emerald Isle currently employs five people at its plant in Randalstown and collects 2,500t of plastic annually.

While this package is limited to customers that buy a minimum of a pallet of bale wrap, which is the equivalent to around 1,200 bales, Mr Livingston feels that the offer will still be attractive to smaller farmers that club together to purchase as a group.

There is no doubt that Emerald Isle will attract some custom given that farmers here are paying ¤100/t to get silage plastic collected from their farm. This is on top of the ¤127 levy that they pay on every tonne of plastic that they buy south of the border. This works out at around ¤3.50/roll.

"The levies and charges cost the average farmer, who might be using 8-9 rolls and end up with half a tonne of plastic for collection at the end of the year, about ¤45-50," said Liam Moloney, the general manager of Irish Farm Film Producers' Group (IFFPG).

"We're recognised as one of the most successful farm plastic recycling initiatives in Europe since we are now collecting up to 70pc of all the plastic used on Irish farms.

"This amounts to 20,000t a year. Because we supply such a reliable and comprehensive service, we get few complaints."

IFFPG is the only licensed collector of farm plastic. Its charge of ¤100/t for plastic collected rises to ¤200/t for plastic collections where the farmer cannot provide the label code to prove he has paid the levy when purchasing the plastic in the first place.

The farmer can cut his collection costs by bringing his plastic to his local authority recycling centre, where he will be charged ¤40/t of plastic, provided a label code is supplied.

IFFPG also has a minimum farm call-out charge of ¤50.

Most of the plastic from both Emerald Isle and IFFPG ends up being recycled into bin liners, pipes and garden furniture, although the Emerald Isle boss does not believe in exporting the plastic he collects.

"It's a commodity that we should be able to add value to here," he said. "We don't see ourselves as competitors with IFFPG. Its aim is to maximise the amount of plastic that ends up being recycled. We simply hope to help in that regard."

Indo Farming