CLEAR BALE wrap could revolutionise the future of farm waste and prove a fruitful alternative for the agricultural industry.

Already the use of clear film is making headway in parts of Europe, where farmers are finding that they are able to better monitor the quality of their forage and lower their plastic waste; making the most of the recycling potential which comes with the clear wrap.

The company carrying the patent for the ‘game-changing’ clear silage wrap goes by the name of Coveris – an Austrian packaging company.

Coveris’ silage wrap products are sold under the brand name Unterland, and its Eire-based sales manager, Colm Malone, spoke to The Scottish Farmer about why switching to clear wrap would provide bountiful benefits to farmers.

“After an almost two-year development period, together with Austrian’s most influential agricultural university, six years ago Coveris launched the clear Unterland Crystal quality to allow farmers to monitor their baled and wrapped forage during the storage period.

“Forage is an important element to a farmer and there is nothing worse than a year down the line discovering that you have rotten silage,” he continued. “By using the clear wrap, farmers can be on top of the fermentation process and keep an eye on its progress.”

Mr Malone went on to explain that although initially the main driver for the clear wrap came from this need for quality monitoring, a range of environmental benefits have emerged which could prove beneficial to improving the image of agriculture in the public’s eye.

“Our clear bales create a perfect landscape which blends in with the scenery as opposed to black bales dotted over the hills which can sometimes be an eyesore to locals and visitors who come to take in the beautiful countryside views.

“As well as serving to an aesthetic advantage, the clear film offers far greater recycling opportunities than black bales and therefore will help to reduce agricultural plastic waste recycling costs.”

For more than 25 years, Coveris has provided silage wrap to England; 95% is black with the rest comprising white and green. Mr Malone explained that to break away from the habit of buying black, it will take some of the big merchants to start stocking clear wrap before it filters down to the masses and becomes the norm.

“Northern Ireland is now using clear wrap more widely and the biggest challenge is going to be breaking away from the tradition of using black film. Our wrap is UV protected for a save 12 months’ outdoor storage and it really does tick all the boxes on quality and durability compared to coloured qualities,” he explained.

Coveris has recently started to supply Solway Recycling in Dumfries and already interest in the wrap has sparked huge traction on their social media pages. The CEO of Solway Recycling, Roy Hiddleston, is calling on farmers to move away from coloured wrap and embrace the benefits clear bale wrap has to offer.

“There is a huge amount of coloured wrap on the market, but we are finding that this limits the number of products that it can be made into. At a time where there is a huge push on the industry to reduce our plastic waste and increase our recycling potential, clear wrap is a game changer, as it opens so many more recycling opportunities, which should help reduce the cost of recycling to farmers.

“If every farmer uses clear wrap and there is no cross contamination of colours of film, it might end up being a free disposal for farmers in the future,” he speculated.

Mr Hiddleston explained that all bale wrap starts off clear but predominantly ends up black, making the point that buying clear wrap would mean no extra costs to the farming community: “People have this image of plastic being bad, but the reality is that it is an important product used in farming, but with that comes a responsibility on the agricultural industry to do what they can to reduce our plastic waste.

“The government has put the onus on manufacturers to put 30% of recycled products into products that we make and with a drive towards clear film, we would be able to increase our recycling potential. This has been successfully adopted in other countries but now is the time for our farming bodies to get behind clear wrap and push for it in Scotland,” he urged.

NFU Scotland has agreed to include clear plastic silage wrap in future discussions on plastic waste: “We are seven months down the line since the on-farm burning of plastics ban came into force and it remains a challenge to many of our members, particularly in more remote areas, to find affordable access to recycling solutions for key plastic waste such as silage wrap,” commented NFUS vice president Martin Kennedy.

“We continue to work with all stakeholders to put proper systems and infrastructures in place to collect, recycle and process all forms of farm plastic. We will ensure clear plastic silage wrap is part of those discussions in the future.”

Mr Malone added: “What we are doing now is sewing the seed ahead of next year and hopefully it will begin to build traction. Given the reaction we have already had in response to the support from Solway Recycling, we have never had a product which has generated so much interest so quickly.”