By Corey Allan, Research Analyst, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research
With all the talk about the impact that dairy farms are having on our waterways in the wake of the report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, I thought it would be good to highlight some positive steps that farmers are making to lessen their environmental impact. A recent report by Environment Canterbury into the waste disposal practices of farmers highlights that a new culture of recycling is emerging.
The report says that younger farmers are more aware of the available recycling options and were also more willing to try new things. There also seems to have been a change in preferences towards more sustainable farming, with younger farmers wanting to do the right thing, and want to understand what the right thing is and how they can achieve it.
It seems that what the farmers are asking for is more information. More environmentally friendly waste management options are available and
some farmers are interested in using them - more just need to know they are
there. Federated Farmers have stepped in to provide this information with their AgRecovery recycling program, which encourages farmers to recycle.
Knowing about the other waste management options is only part of the issue, having the appropriate incentives to recycle in place is also key. Cities such as Wellington and Dunedin manage these incentives by effectively charging households for the quantity of rubbish they produce. Council rubbish bags have to be purchased, so there is a marginal cost associated with increasing the quantity of rubbish. By providing recycling bins which impose no additional cost for a larger quantity of refuse (aside from any increase in rates needed to fund collection and processing), these cities have managed to reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill. By making the recycling option attractive to farmers, we could see even larger decreases in the amount of waste that is burned or buried. Action in one particular area could also encourage farmers to look for new ways to reduce other environmental impacts.
* Here is an interesting piece by Willy Leferink from Federated Farmers, discussing the issue of water quality and what steps farmers are (or can be) taking to reduce their impacts on water quality