'The Birch family are now in their 24th year in providing a collection service for waste farm plastics'
In 1989, Peter & Marilyn Birch read an article in the Farmers Weekly regarding a new national scheme for free collection of waste silage film, crop film etc. from farms for recycling by British Polythene Industries (BPI) in Scotland. On contacting the company to have waste taken from their farm, Peter was told there was no collection agent in his area and was given the opportunity to meet with BPI to discuss becoming an agent.
As a result of that meeting, P & M Birch became agents for the Glamorgan and Gwent area. In 1994, they were then offered the additional area of Dyfed (Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire) and in 1995 also took over the Powys area.
With no government regulations in force, FFPG reluctantly decided to end the collection and recycling scheme in the UK and all material for the recycling plant then came from other countries which the respective governments paid for the service. UK farmers that had participated in the FFPG scheme were now in a dilemma as to disposing of their waste polythene.
Some had been involved in the scheme since 1990, were environmentally friendly and wanted to be involved in seeing their waste being recycled. The Environment Agency Wales was eager to establish a scheme for Wales, as this was the area the previous FFPG scheme was most successful - with over half the material going in to BPI coming from Wales, A meeting was held at the EA office in Cardiff in September 1997 with interested bodies such as Countryside Council for Wales, National Parks, Welsh Office, Farming Unions and BPI. As a result of the meeting P & M Birch applied for European and Welsh Office Funding to set up a collection and recycling scheme for the whole of Wales.
In July 1998, funding was approved for three years - 25% from Welsh European Funding Office, 25% from the National Assembly and 50% from farmers who paid a subsidised rate for collection of their waste, An extension period of funding was allowed due to the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, which meant that collections were suspended for six months and greatly affected the business.
Funding ended in June 2002 and since then the business has run on a fully commercial basis, without any funding from the Public Sector. In 2005, Brian & Cheryl Birch (Peter & Marilyn's son and daughter) took over the helm and Birch Farm Plastic now covers the whole of the UK through a network of local agents and are a preferred supplier to BPI for the whole of the UK.
The waste is recycled into a pellet, which is then distributed through various BPI companies for recycling into pit liners, refuse bags etc. It is also recycled into a plastic lumber, which Cheryl Birch's company Second Life Products Wales Ltd manufactures street and garden furniture for sale to schools, hotels and Local Authorities throughout the UK.