Farmers will pay for recycling with higher ag plastic prices

Operating costs of the recycling program for grain bags, twine, wrap and other ag plastic could mean a hike in prices next spring.

A program to recycle agricultural plastic in Saskatchewan will likely result in higher prices for grain bags, baler twine and other plastic products, perhaps as early as next April.

Organizers of the Saskatchewan Agricultural Plastics Stewardship Program, who met in Saskatoon July 4, said the cost of running a provincial program could increase the price of agricultural plastic by five to seven percent, depending on how the program is structured.

The Saskatchewan environment ministry would like to have a province-wide recycling program in place by next April, although organizers acknowledged that timelines are tight and many details have yet to be worked out.

Products affected by the program are expected to include grain bags, bale wrap, silage wrap, plastic baler twine and net.

“It’s going to be an interesting ride on this one, but right now we’re looking at five to seven percent,” said CleanFarms general manager Barry Friesen.

CleanFarms has been consulting with industry groups and working with the Saskatchewan Agricultural Stewardship Council for the past three years to determine costs and draft a program that the province could adopt.

Draft documents were delivered to Saskatchewan environment minister Ken Cheveldayoff in early July.

The ministry will review the information and examine key issues, such as costs and collection methods, before unveiling program details.

Those involved in the process have suggested the cost of running a provincial program is likely to be $1 to $2 million per year.

Actual costs will depend on how the plastic is collected, stored, transported and delivered to recyclers.

There are concerns that some farmers, despite paying a recycling surcharge, could still be reluctant to spend additional time and money collecting, storing and delivering used plastic.

Recycling depots, similar to those used for empty pesticide containers, are considered a likely option.

Saskatchewan farmers use more than a million kilograms of agricultural plastic a year.

Used grain bags alone account for 1,100 tonnes annually.

Provincial officials have declined to say what percentage of plastic is likely to be recovered, but Friesen said as much as 65 percent could be recovered once the program is operating.

Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Norm Hall said the need for a provincial program is evident.

A number of groups, including rural municipalities, have been pushing for a system to deal with hundreds of tonnes of used plastic that are burned in the countryside or dumped at municipal landfills.

He said controlling program costs and minimizing farmer inconvenience will be critical.

“The devil is in the details, whether it involves on-farm pickup or farmer delivery to a collection site,” Hall said.

“But overall, let’s get a program started and then tinker with the details later, rather than trying to get it perfect right off the hop.”

Hall said the pesticide container recycling program had similar growing pains when it was launched. Subsequent changes and improvements have resulted in widespread acceptance.

Friesen said discussions are continuing with authorities in Alberta and Manitoba to determine if similar programs are likely to be introduced there.

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