Recycling program adopted across prairie provinces

CleanFARMS | Ontario firm says close to 90 percent of western Canadian farmers are participating in its plastic recycling initiative

Prairie farmers have bought into a recycling program that is good for the environment. They lead the rest of Canada for the sheer volume of plastic that is disposed of properly.


“This program definitely proves that farmers are good stewards of the land because this is the most successful voluntary stewardship program of waste products in this country,” said CleanFARMS general manager Barry Friesen.


“There is no other voluntary program (in Canada) that achieves these recovery rates.” 


CleanFARMS, which is based in Ontario, operates the empty container program. Last year, it collected the 100th million empty container since it started in 1989. Other core programs, such as the obsolete pesticide collection program and the empty bag collection program, also reported increased collection totals.


“Prairie producers are very well aware of the program and are leading the country in recycling,” he said.


“In any of the surveys we’ve done, close to 90 percent of farmers participate in the program.”


CleanFARMS’ $6 million annual budget comes from the manufacturers and developers of crop protection and fertilizer products. 


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It also works with the Canadian Animal Health Institute by collecting and disposing of obsolete livestock medications.


As well, the organization is operating several pilot projects for the safe disposal of empty seed and granular pesticide bags as well as film plastics and twine.


Friesen said the organization relies heavily on hundreds of retail locations in Canada, which provide free collection services for plastic containers in seven provinces. Two other provinces have municipal sites set up for free drop offs.


“While they’re not giving me money directly, they’re essentially giving me free space,” he said.


British Columbia and Saskatchewan use dealer sites, while Alberta and Manitoba have municipal sites.


The program collected 2,200,468 containers in Saskatchewan last year, which amounts to 816,467 kilograms. That compares to 541,719 kg (1,458,210 containers) in Alberta and 253,755 kg (621,587 containers) in Manitoba.


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“We ship the equivalent of about 100 full tractor trailer loads per year of shredded plastic (to recyclers),” Friesen said.


All of last year’s recycled byproducts went directly into manufacturing farm drainage tiles, which he said require minimal human handling and are buried and safe to use. 


“We like to call it the gift that keeps on giving,” he said.


“Use our members’ product, increase yield on your field and if you need farm drainage tile, you can use it again to continue to increase even more yield on your field.”


Friesen said the national recovery rate was 65 percent last year. While impressive, he pointed out room for improvement compared to other countries such as Brazil with a 94 percent recovery rate for pesticide containers.


“Certainly one of the goals is to continue to drive home the message about recycle your pesticide containers,” he said.


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“We know that there’s more out there that are either being burned or buried and we would like to get more because that’s the appropriate way to manage these products.”