Waste Management In Action

Clearing the herd: Agsafe

Agsafe’s product stewardship programs, drumMUSTER and ChemClear, are providing farmers with a safe way to dispose of their agricultural and veterinary chemical containers.

Australian farmers are set for a more resilient future following a remarkable recovery from drought that has them on target to hit record agriculture production this year.

Official government forecaster ABARES is tipping agricultural production to hit $65.9 billion, an eight per cent jump on last year, on the back of decent weather conditions and a huge grain harvest.

Demand for stock is booming, but farmers still face a challenging problem – managing their agriculture leftovers.

The agricultural and veterinary (AgVet) chemical classification applies to a range of products developed to protect crops, livestock and domestic animals.

According to the Federal Agriculture Department, AgVet chemicals have produced long-term benefits for Australian agriculture by reducing the effects of weeds, pests and diseases on agricultural and forest production.

Disposal challenges come from AgVet chemicals given their composition, ingredients and flammability.

Taking growing hazardous waste rates into account, specialised product stewardship schemes for AgVet products have become critical to managing the agricultural industry sustainably.

According to General Manager Dominique Doyle, AgSafe works with rural businesses to promote workplace health and safety practices for AgVet products.

“We achieve this through AgSafe chemical and drum collection product stewardship schemes drumMUSTER and ChemClear,” she says.

Doyle highlights that farmers’ committed engagement in the ChemClear program always impresses, but never surprises.

“Farmers understand that they are the custodians of the land, and they are always mindful of sustainable farm practices. ChemClear enables farmers to safely dispose of chemicals off farms and out of rural communities.”

ChemClear’s goal is to reduce the quantity of unused AgVet chemicals stored on properties and in businesses across Australia, thereby reducing negative impacts on the environment, people and trade in the future.

By removing these unwanted chemicals from farms and businesses, a potentially hazardous situation can be eliminated in the event of a fire or flood.

ChemClear and its partners have made significant progress since 2003 when the program commenced. In under 20 years, the program has collected and disposed of more than 750,000 litres of obsolete, inherited and unknown AgVet chemicals.

“Using ChemClear also ensures that AgVet farmers and chemical users will meet their responsibilities and obligations under any Quality Assurance, Farm or Environmental Management program,” Doyle says.

The program collects registered chemicals produced by 126 manufacturers supporting the Industry Stewardship Scheme. Chemicals classified as Group 1 are collected free of charge.

As an additional service, ChemClear collects what is classified as Group 2 chemicals. This category covers deregistered, out-of-date, mixed, unlabelled or unknown AgVet chemicals produced by a manufacturer not signed to the drumMUSTER program.

“We do this to minimise risk for our processors, their employees and the entire supply chain,” Doyle says.

98 per cent of chemicals collected by ChemClear are used as an alternative fuel source in the manufacturing of cement.

AgSafe encourages businesses who have unused or obsolete AgVet chemicals that need to be safely disposed of to register them online at chemclear.org.au and they will be picked up when a collection is scheduled in their area.

On average, collections are conducted in each state every two years.

“Our contractor has a biochemist on hand, and they receive and appropriately store the chemicals after eligibility has been confirmed.”

Doyle highlights the important support from farming organisations, as well as local community groups for spearheading the program.

“They are champions of their work. We work hard to engage farmers to use the program, and in every state and territory have regional consultants that attend field days and engage with communities and councils to ensure maximum return back into the drumMUSTER and ChemClear programs.”

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