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Cleanfarms to recycle ag plastics into drainage tile


November 6, 2020
By Drainage Contractor

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An innovative multi-year initiative that is helping to recover and recycle plastic used on farms will ramp up this fall, providing more Canadian farmers with opportunities to manage plastic waste in environmentally responsible ways.

The project, funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP), has been developed and is being executed by Cleanfarms. The national, non-profit industry stewardship organization has programs in place across Canada to recover and manage non-organic farm waste, most of it plastic, for recycling or environmentally responsible disposal.

Entitled “Building a zero-plastic waste strategy for agriculture,” the project has three broad-based objectives:

  • to build consensus on the appropriate management of non-organic agricultural waste;
  • to survey farmers to establish current patterns of disposal before and after pilots and education programs; and
  • to demonstrate best practices in ag waste management through pilot programs conducted throughout Canada.

“We know farmers want more opportunities to manage agricultural waste materials in an environmentally responsible manner,” said Cleanfarms executive director Barry Friesen. “This project will identify additional options for farmers and agricultural suppliers to incorporate sustainability practices more broadly in their daily operations. In today’s economy, with the emphasis on sustainability and circular thinking, we have a responsibility and a great opportunity right across this country to improve recovery and recycling numbers.”

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Canadian agriculture currently uses about 40,000 tonnes of plastics annually in the process of growing crops and raising livestock, most of it in plastic containers, grain bags, twine and bale/silage film. Though plastic is essential throughout the farming industry, managing the end of lifecycle of plastics is a big challenge that requires forward-thinking solutions.

Cleanfarms operates five permanent programs across Canada, including one which collects small plastic containers that are 23 litres and under for recycling. In 2019, farmers returned 5.5 million containers bringing the total number returned since the program began 30 years ago to 131.5 million. The containers are recycled into new agricultural products, such as tile drainage pipes.