Single use plastic bags are a curse for the environment but there are a whole lot of benefits plastics bring to our lives when they’re used wisely and sustainably.
As someone who has been in the plastics moulding industry for 25-plus years, it’s hardly surprising Darryn Ross would say this. But he’s also proving the point with his Styx Solutions plastic fencing batten/dropper, which he pitches as a cost-effective, durable and environment-friendly alternative to the traditional wooden batten.
Since the Styx batten prototype won two innovation awards at the Mystery Creek Fieldays in 2016, roughly 250,000 of them have been manufactured in Christchurch and now grace farm fencelines all around New Zealand. Darryn says they’ve also been exported to Australia and the UK, and there’s an order from Canada he’ll fill just as soon as COVID-disrupted shipping channels are sorted.
Just in the last few weeks there have been some exciting new developments.
Until recently made with 100% virgin plastic, the Styx batten now has a blend of cross wool added to the final product to improve strength, reduce overall polymer consumption and utilise low value wools such as dags and bellies.
This stems from a partnership Styx Solutions has forged with Shear Edge. It utilises the Keravos concept developed by inventor Logan Williams and already used in everything from boats to knife handles and pot plant holders.
“For our purposes, the combination of polymers and natural fibres is not only very strong and long-lasting out in harsh outdoors environments, but also we’re providing some revenue to farmers for some of that low quality wool that in many instances is being buried or dumped,” Darryn says.
“We featured on the six o’clock TV news the other day. We’re Shear Edge’s first major client with a real technical injection-moulded product that is being used back on the farm. That’s a good story in its own right.”
Styx battens have an expected life of 20-25 years (and carry a 5-year replacement warranty against fair wear and tear breakage) and can be recycled after then. Now, in another bonus for the environment, the product is being made from 50% virgin/50% re-purposed plastic – the latter being the same form of plastic that people in towns put out for kerbside recycling.
“We want to keep the virgin material out there because it delivers longevity performance qualities. But the re-purposed component means less stuff is going to landfill and funnily enough the second time round it’s used it just gives the batten a bit more ductility.”
So why would farmers choose plastic battens and the outriggers that Styx Solutions also makes?
Styx uses UV-stabilised automotive grade polymer. It has excellent resistance to pesticides, salt and other chemicals. Moss and mould will not grow on it and because it doesn’t absorb moisture, the weight never changes.
It’s designed to flex and absorb animal impact. No staples are required so that reduces labour costs and eliminates the problem of staples rusting and popping out.
“They’re so easy to install that I’ve got one client down our way who told me recently he takes out his eight and 10 year-old kids who help him out as he puts them on the fence.”
Styx outriggers can be attached without tools or fasteners. Other products are also being designed to easily attach to the batten.
Another benefit is that they’re light.
“I had about 500 of our battens in the back of my ute recently and they only weighed 150 kilos. There’s no way you’d do that with 500 wooden ones – they’re double the size and almost three times the weight. You just wouldn’t carry that sort of load safely in hilly terrain,” Darryn says.
“It’s a similar story for farmers who need to use choppers to get fencing materials to remote locations.”
Farmers who use barbed wire for the top or third strand are predominantly doing so to stop battens sliding along the fenceline.
“There’s no need for barbed wire with our product and that’s good for animal welfare,” Darryn says. “Our battens are interwoven down through the wires, and coupled with a patented wire clip design, the battens are extremely difficult for stock to drag down the fenceline.”
The battens are free from any chemicals such as wood treatments and will not leach toxins into soil or waterways.
Timber prices are escalating, which places the Styx Batten well as an alternative to wooden battens. Removal of the expense of staples and the ease of installation makes the Styx Batten very cost effective, especially when multiple hot wires are required on the fence.
“We’ve got a whole lot of benefits and features to talk to farmers about. Really, I think it’s just a matter of changing traditional thinking.”
Unless a farm is particularly remote, Styx can generally deliver product anywhere in the country within 2-4 days. Find out more at www.styxsolutions.com