An on-farm plastic recycling initiative, Plasback, seems to be gaining momentum as the agricultural industry moves to reduce its environmental impact.
“There is a misconception that recycling just gets stockpiled somewhere,” Rankin told Rural News.
“Actually, it doesn’t. Everything that is sent to AgRecovery gets recycled. I think if people knew that they may take the time to triple rinse their containers and take them to their local AgRecovery depot to drop them off to recycle.”
Rankin was named New Zealand’s top dairy woman for 2019 by Dairy Women’s Network on May 1. The teacher, mother of four, environmentalist and dairy farmer – with husband Glen – in South Taranaki has undertaken the Kellogg Leadership Programme this year. Her research project is: ‘How can a circular economy model be developed on a NZ dairy farm’.
“Farms use lots of products. A lot comes wrapped in plastic or stored in plastic. It is a bit concerning how much rubbish we created on our own farm so that is where my idea came from for my Kellogg project,” Rankin says.
The Kellogg programme run by Rural Leaders Trust is to improve leadership skills through investigating and researching a problem.
“My problem was how I could improve my dairy farm waste? From that I looked around and saw what was happening around the world and in New Zealand. The Minister for the Environment is pretty big on introducing the ‘circular economy’ to New Zealand.”
Instead of using a product then throwing it or the packaging away, the concept is to end up with zero waste, through recycling, revamping or putting it back together in a new way.
“My project was to start doing some of that concept on my own dairy farm and I have just finished the research and I am writing my report which is due in June to present in July to the Kellogg course.
“So it is pretty exciting stuff. Lots of outcomes around what to do with plastic and what we can do onfarm so things don’t have to be stored in plastic or wrapped up in so much plastic.
“But also making sure those awesome places like AgRecovery and Plasback get their messages out on what you can recycle because I think if farmers actually knew how easy it is they would do it a lot better,” Rankin says.
“There is a huge amount of misinformation and a real lack of good quality education out there not just for farmers but the general public on recycling.
“So, what can we do, how can we improve it, what can farmers and manufacturers do better, what do retailers need to do better? I am addressing all of those things in my report.”
Rankin and husband Glen have been farming for about 18 years and are starting their third season as sharemilkers on a 143ha Parininihi ki Waitotara (PKW) farm milking 450 cows in South Taranaki.
Rankin balances teaching part time at Opunake Primary School and being onfarm full time with Glen and their four boys, aged six to 14.
Rankin says she is both a farm assistant and chief executive of their farming business, having learnt over the years to milk, drive tractors, feed stock and do fences as well as sort out the health and safety and human resources.
She came from a townie background and had never been on a farm until Glen went farming.
An active Dairy Enviro Leader (DEL) and member of the NZ DEL network, Rankin is also chair of the Taranaki DEL group. In 2018 she was elected to the national executive for the NZ Dairy Awards and last year was selected as a NZ Climate Change Ambassador as part of Dairy Action for Climate Change.
The Dairy Women’s Network trustee who heads the Dairy Woman of the Year judging panel, Alison Gibb, says “what impressed the judges was Rankin’s self-awareness, her preparedness to grow and focus her ‘make it happen’ attitude towards problem solving environmental issues.”
The other finalists were Kylie Leonard who farms north of Taupo, Julie Pirie from Ngatea in Waikato and Southlander Emma Hammond.