With 2020 tied as the warmest year on record and in a bid to reduce the industry's carbon footprint, recycling companies across the country are encouraging more farmers to opt for a more sustainable and cheaper bale wrap that's made from clear plastic.

Dumfries-shire-based Roy Hiddleston, CEO of Solway Recycling, explained there are now great environmental and long term cost savings benefits for farmers to consider when they make their bale wrap purchase this year.

"The clear wrap, which has many other benefits over traditional coloured wrap, is made by Coveris. They have manufactured the famous Unterland bale wrap for years and produce a top quality product which comes with manufacturers support and guarantee," Roy stated.

"We supply the Coveris plastic and have noticed that over the past year, there has been a large increase in farmers opting for going 'clear' rather than use the regular black wrap."

The revolutionary transparent bale wrap has proved a popular choice for farmers across the country since it was launched in Autumn 2019.

As well as allowing farmers to monitor silage quality better and proving more aesthetically appealing on the landscape, the clear wrap, more importantly, offers the same quality of UV protection as coloured wrap.

Roy added that by selecting the clear plastic, farmers could lower, or possibly remove bale wrap disposal costs by making the switch.

"The demand for recycled clear polymer is higher as it can be used in a greater range of recycled products. It also fits in with the government's newly published plastics sustainability policies, thus making clear wrap more attractive as a recycled product than the traditional black and coloured bale wrap used at present," he added.

The demand for clear plastic for recycling purposes has resulted in Solway Recycling offering its customers reduced collection costs, or the option be able to drop it off at their depot free of charge, as long as the plastic has been kept separate.

"When you compare clear to the traditional black or coloured plastic – which demand around £70 per tonne disposal costs – this is a great saving for farmers.

"The lack of demand for coloured plastic for recycling has resulted in mountains of it lying around the country with no capacity to recycle it. As a result, there is now an environmental levy to help dispose of it after use – a cost that's added to each roll, which is something that doesn't happen with clear plastic so this is another saving to farmers using the clear alternative," commented Roy.

Robin Tuke, who farms 450 pedigree Aberdeen-Angus cattle, at Hardiesmill, in Berwickshire, was one of around 250 farmers in southern Scotland and northern England who made the change, opting to wrap all his 2500 bales with clear plastic last year.

"We run an entirely grass-reared herd, so it is critical for us that the silage is perfect. The farm is striving to be carbon zero – which we shall hit this year – so when we were approached by Solway Recycling about the clear wrap, we definitely wanted to give it a go," said Robin.

"The clear wrap has been a fantastic change for us. The silage has kept well, the cattle are enjoying it and we have saved a considerable cost by not having to dispose of the black plastic – so it is a win:win all round.

"Our contractors were a bit hesitant to use it but were pleasantly surprised, with costs for double wrapped bales remaining the same. We had three deliveries of the wrap last year and will continue to invest in this sustainable alternative this coming season," he stated.

With clear plastic growing in popularity and following NFUS' environmental feasibility trials last year, the shift from coloured to clear could not be more prominent.

"I have made the switch to clear plastic on my own farm and from this experience, the plastic is doing the job. The quality of the plastic is reduced, however we want to make an environmental contribution and help encourage other farmers to make the change," commented NFUS president, Andrew McCornick.

"With the environmental levy on black plastic now in place, I think the industry will push for the shift to clear silage wrap. There is slowly increasing demand and I believe that there is a real enthusiasm to get the industry's carbon footprint reduced – which can only be a good thing."

More information about clear wrap can be found on Coveris' website: https://www.coveris.com/products-and-technologies/films/agri-films/unterland-crystal