The drumMUSTER plastics recycling program sees empty chemical containers being repurposed in a variety of ways that benefit the community.

Before drumMUSTER began operations, landholders had few available options to dispose of their agricultural and veterinary chemical containers in ethical and environmentally sound ways. Burying, burning, dumping drums or sending them to landfill were considered by many to be the only ways to manage farm waste.

In the late 1990s, the agvet chemical industry along with farmers and local government decided it was time to make some changes, and develop better options for disposal.

The first collection took place in May, 1999 in Gunnedah, NSW, where landholders surrendered 5,500 containers, which were then processed for recycling and the plastic reused in manufacturing projects.

The idea soon caught on and today, 120 agvet chemical manufacturers participate in the program and display the drumMUSTER logo on product labels. When pest managers purchase chemical products showing the logo, they become part of the product stewardship chain of custody.

Empty drumMUSTER containers being shredded, washed and melted

A safer choice

DrumMUSTER’s national program manager, Frank Wimmler, said Australian landholders are demonstrating their commitment to better land management practices through their increasing use of waste management programs.

“Both the drumMUSTER and ChemClear programs are targeted towards to reducing environmental contamination by offering an alternative to chemicals and drums being sent to landfill and or being burnt,” said Mr Wimmler. “Plus, the programs enhance food safety by offering and end-of-life pathways for both unused chemicals and their containers.

“They’re an effective alternative to the unlawful burying of chemicals and plastics, reducing the risk of water contamination, too.”

Life of a recycled drum

The drumMUSTER logo states that the user can deliver the empty, clean containers to one of 814 national collection sites free of charge, as they have already paid a four-cent levy per L/kg towards recycling of the container.

On delivery, containers are inspected to ensure they meet the cleanliness standard. Collection agencies, which include local government transfer stations and community groups, take responsibility for collected containers, which are stored in a dedicated, secure facility.

Recycling processors retrieve the containers, which are either chipped onsite or baled then transported to a recycling depot for processing. Processors place drumMUSTER containers through shredders, then the granules are washed and heated up to 250 degrees.

The end result: quality plastic pellets ready to be remanufactured

Once the plastic mass reaches molten stage, it is cooled, then heat-extruded to make small pellets, which are packed in bales ready for transport to a remanufacturing plant. Recycled plastic remanufacturers create useful products such as wheelie bins, cable covers, public furniture, road markers, construction materials and garden equipment. Over 30 million drums have been recycled and repurposed to date.

Details and locations of the 800 collection sites across Australia can be found on the drumMUSTER and local government websites.

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