Recycling program targets Alberta farmers' grain bags, baling twine
20 collection sites across province will accept agricultural plastics
A new provincial recycling pilot project targets farmers in the hopes of halting burning and burying plastic waste — common practices on Alberta farms.
Disposing of grain bags and baling twine, among other plastics, has long been a concern for prairie farmers. Soon, they'll be able to drop off these items at collection sites across the province.
The Alberta Plastics Recycling Association is in the process of setting up approximately 20 agricultural plastic recycling depots across the province as part of the CleanFarms initiative.
It is currently accepting applications from municipalities interested in hosting sites.
"We see the number of plastics used increasing and different plastics cropping up all the time," said Tammy Schwass, executive director of the association.
"Silage plastic, net wrap used for bales as well, different types of buckets and pails, greenhouse plastics — it's extensive, the list of materials that are out there."
Schwass said there are a handful of recycling programs across the province, but some have banned agricultural plastics due to their bulky size, which can get caught in recycling equipment.
A 2012 government study found most Alberta farmers were using some form of agricultural plastic, especially on larger operations. About 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste was being generated every year.
Only 17 per cent of farmers said they had sent plastic for recycling.
Instead, farmers have resorted to dumping plastics in landfills, burying it and burning waste in open fires, an illegal practice that releases dangerous chemicals.
Grain bags, baling twine only
The $1-million grant is being managed by the Alberta Beef Producers, which is co-ordinating the recycling programs on behalf of the association.
During the three-year pilot project, farmers will be able to drop off grain bags and baling twine at the sites, likely located in rural areas, at no cost.
Schwass said the association has decided to focus on those materials first because they can be moved into recycling markets.
Processors can wash, shred and pelletize grain bags, and use the recycled resin to make items such as garbage bags, she said. Meanwhile, the polypropylene in twine can be recycled to make car parts.
Schwass said this is the first step in setting up a permanent recycling program for all agricultural plastics.
"We hope to gather enough data and information on the logistics, the transportation, the cost, all of those types of things, to inform the government and work with them on a full-time legislative program going forward."
Other Prairie provinces already have agricultural plastic recycling programs in place.
Manitoba collects both grain bags and twine while Saskatchewan farmers can recycle grain bags and pesticide containers.
With files from Calgary Eyeopener.