Alberta goes big with grain bag, twine recycling collection stations

The Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group operated by CleanFarms 
will have 20 collection sites, most of which will accept bags and twine

The first province-wide program to recycle grain bags and twine has been launched in Alberta through the Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group operated by CleanFarms.

Twenty collection sites are available across the province. Not every site will accept both materials but most are accepting rolled, tied grain bags of any size, as well as twine.

Surveys indicate there are about 5,500 tonnes of viable agricultural plastic in Alberta that could be recycled. Without other options, farmers store it, take it to landfills or burn it.

“Farmers have been asking for a solution for years,” said Shane Hedderson, western region business manager for CleanFarms.

Survey data also showed “92 percent of Alberta farmers would be very (68 percent) or somewhat (24 percent) likely to participate in a recycling program for grain bags if a collection site was in their area.

“Similarly, 86 percent said they would be very (56 percent) or somewhat (30 percent) likely to participate in a twine recycling program if a collection facility was in their area.”

The three-year pilot project to collect grain bags and twine is funded by the Alberta government and the funds are administered by Alberta Beef Producers.

Grain bags must be shaken to remove debris, rolled and secured with twine. Some sites have rollers and compactors, so farmers should contact the site of their choice to learn availability.

Twine should not be mixed with any other plastics. It should be shaken free of debris and placed loose in CleanFarms recycling bags, which are available from rural municipalities and at the collection sites.

Hedderson said 52 rural municipalities expressed interest in accepting bags and twine when the call went out to find sites, “which really showed us the magnitude of the issue.”

Twenty were chosen based primarily on geography but also on storage capacity, truck access and available staffing. Each municipality receives a small amount of money per ton of plastics collected to cover costs.

Once a truckload of grain bags — about 120 rolls — has accumulated at any one site, CleanFarms arranges for a truck and loading. The bags go to one of three recycling facilities, two of which are in Alberta and one in the United States.

They are shredded, washed and turned into plastic pellets that enter the plastics market for use in other products.

Grain bags in particular are a higher quality of material than many other types of used plastic, Hedderson said.

Twine is sent to an Alberta facility for baling and then shipped to the U.S. for processing. Roofing materials and new twine are potential uses.

As for the monetary value involved, Hedderson said it is low.

“This material still has a lot of processing to be done to it, so the value isn’t quite where we wish it would be, especially in today’s recycling market. It’s a bit of a tough market with virgin plastic prices being so low.

“But generally there is a little bit of value from this material and it generally will cover the cost of transportation, so getting it from the collection site to the recycler. The amount of money that CleanFarms receives goes to cover that amount of the cost, and that’s all been part of the budgeting process.”

The low price of oil translates into low prices for plastic, and the opposite is also true.

“We’re hoping we’ve hit the bottom at this point in terms of pricing and demand,” Hedderson said. “Recycling is very important and obviously the economics behind it have to support the environmental outcomes that we hope for.”

The list of locations to recycle grain bags and twine can be found at cleanfarms.ca.

About the author

explore

Stories from our other publications