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DrumMUSTER celebrates 20 years of clean, green farms

drumMUSTER is the national program for the collection and recycling of empty, cleaned, non-returnable crop protection and on-farm animal health chemical containers; known as AgVet products. 

drumMUSTER’s belief is that the responsible use of AgVet chemicals, and waste management initiatives mean a cleaner environment for the community and adds to Australia’s clean and green image.

AgVet chemical users across Australia are utilising the drumMUSTER program because it provides a safe, responsible and cost-effective solution for the recovery of a valuable resource that would otherwise have been hazardous waste.

Since its inception in February 1999, drumMUSTER has collected an incredible 33.5 million AgVet containers for recycling. This equates to 38,000 tonnes of waste which would have otherwise ended up as landfill or burnt on properties. To give some idea of scale, that is the same weight as 550 space shuttles!

drumMUSTER is one of the first stewardship programs established in Australia and is now internationally recognised as a leading example of how industry and farmers can work together to ensure a sustainable pathway for the responsible disposal of AgVet chemical containers.  Farmers, councils, local communities and manufacturers of the chemicals collaborate to ensure the success of this program.  This model is the strength of the program and ensures the ongoing success into the future.  An extraordinary milestone after 20 years, and a great legacy that all stakeholders should be proud of”. Said General Manager of Agsafe, Dominique Doyle

As knowledge and technology has improved over the years, most farmers have been quick to realise the importance of sustainable agriculture and have adopted new and improved practices that enable increased yields while at the same time protecting the land for future generations. This includes utilising programs such as drumMUSTER.

What began as a conversation about finding a solution to the ever-growing piles of containers on properties, colloquially known as ‘drum dumps’, has over the past 20 years grown into a national stewardship program advocating for the whole-of-life approach to AgVet chemical containers. 

The first collection of containers was held on 25 May 1999 in Gunnedah NSW. In the program’s first year 534,000 containers were collected. In its second year that number doubled to over 1 million containers being returned and recycled with this upward trend continuing over the years that followed. Today, the drumMUSTER program collects an average of 2 million containers each year. This is a testament to the farmers and AgVet chemical users of Australia and their commitment to the land. Those utilising the program should be commended for being champions for the environment and supporting sustainable farming practices.

Of course, it’s not just the farmers ‘doing the right thing’, it’s also the manufacturers of the chemical products that ensure the program is viable. The program is funded by a levy of 4c per litre or kilogram on AgVet chemicals and manufacturers of those said chemicals voluntarily participate in the program. This industry collaboration demonstrates how chemical manufacturers recognize the importance of keeping farms clean and green and are proud to be associated with drumMUSTER. Approximately 80 per cent of all AgVet chemical manufacturers in Australia are involved with the program. These companies proudly display a drumMUSTER eligible container logo on their products, which ensures farmers understand that they are purchasing products with a sustainable disposal pathway 

From 1 July 2019 the levy will increase to 6 cents per litre/kg. To date, 123 Manufacturers have voluntarily signed up to participate in the program, with numbers continuing to increase with 14 companies joining in the past nine months alone.  With the increase in the levy, the drumMUSTER program will continue the works to ensure community engagement, working with state and national farming organisations and supporting the increase in collections across all of Australia.

However, the benefits of the program are not just environmental. Throughout Australia over 110 community groups are involved with the program. Volunteers from groups such as school P&Cs, Landcare groups and local football clubs, are specifically trained to inspect drums prior to these containers entering drumMUSTER compounds.  They are able to claim for inspection fees from the drumMUSTER program, which raises much needed funds for their communities (such as local playgrounds and supporting local sports or schools).  The conduct ‘pop-up’ collections in their area and receive a payment from the program for their drums. These payments help raise much needed funds for their communities whether it be for sports teams, local clubs or schools.  

Council support is essential to the success of the program.  The majority of[DD1] collection sites are located in waste transfer stations operated by regional and local councils across rural Australia. There are currently 349 councils conducting collections at over 800 sites throughout Australia.

The key to local engagement is our Regional Consultants.  From 2002 the program appointed a local Regional Consultant in every State or Territory around Australia. The drumMUSTER consultants’ role is to liaise with councils, AgVet chemical resellers and collection agencies, as well as farmers, to ensure the program is running smoothly and is available to those chemical drum holders in their area. Some of drumMUSTER’s consultants have been with the program for over 15 years and are  true champions for the program in the field.

National Compliance Manager Allan McGann has been with the program since 2001. “During my time involved with the program I have seen significant changes over the past 20 years, from limited access at the most of the collection sites to better options for deliveries at the majority of the sites now managed by councils and community groups the return rate has more than doubled to a level that sees in excess of 2 million containers returned each year. This is testament to the support of all who have been involved in the program; from chemical users, local councils, manufacturers, resellers,  community groups and the management team who have collectively built and maintained the largest agricultural stewardship program in Australia.

Containers collected through the drumMUSTER program are recycled into products that are used in everyday life. Items such as wheelie bins, irrigation and drainage pipe, fencing posts, road signage, outdoor furniture and garden stakes are just some of the products made from recycled plastic collected though the drumMUSTER program.

All farm chemical users are urged to help protect our farming land for the future by participating in drumMUSTER. Doing so is simple – all chemical users need to do is to triple-rinse their drums (preferably straight after use) and take them to their local drumMUSTER collection site. You can find one near you by visiting the website at www.drummuster.org.au

So, rinse them out, round them up and run them in. And remember, every container counts!


 [DD1]How many?  Approx 550 of our 800 odd sites? Yes/no?