ETOBICOKE, Ontario, August 03, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – As part of an 18-month research project to identify the types and amount of plastic packaging and products used in the agricultural sector across Canada , Cleanfarms released a first-ever national benchmark report that documents the amount of these plastics produced by industry and region across the country.
The report, Characterization and Management of Agricultural Plastics on Canadian Farms, was posted on cleanfarms.ca
This research provides detailed figures that will help guide the agricultural sector as it explores how agricultural plastic packaging and products can contribute to Canada’s emerging circular economy.
“These data are available at an important time. There is considerable activity globally aimed at changing the way plastics are managed, ”said Barry Friesen, Executive Director of Cleanfarms. “Closer to home, we can now measure our progress as new initiatives are put in place that complement both established, high-performing recycling programs and the farming community’s continued commitment to do even more.” .
The research was funded in part by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
As the only agricultural industry stewardship organization in Canada, Cleanfarms actively contributes to a healthier environment and a sustainable future for Canadian agriculture by developing and operating programs across Canada specifically for farmers to help them manage plastics when they are no longer needed.
Cleanfarms currently operates a Canada-wide program that collects empty 23L and smaller containers of pesticides and fertilizers. The program has been in existence for 30 years. In 2020, 76% of empty containers were collected for recycling.
One of Cleanfarms’ more recent programs helping Saskatchewan farmers recycle grain bags has seen collection volumes increase dramatically since this program was first offered. In 2018, Cleanfarms collected 1,257 tonnes of grain bags. In 2020, Saskatchewan farmers doubled that number, returning 2,536 tonnes of grain bags for recycling.
“Agricultural plastics like grain bags, bales and silage plastics and containers are at the heart of modern agriculture. They allow efficient storage and delivery of product to the farm, “noted Friesen, adding that” our high recovery rate for container recycling, combined with substantial increases in grain bag volumes over a short period, demonstrates that farmers want to recycle. It’s up to organizations like Cleanfarms to ensure that convenient, personalized programs that meet their needs are available.
Research estimates that Canadian farmers use almost 62,000 tonnes of agricultural plastic products and packaging annually. More than half of that, about 53%. 100, is generated in the Prairie provinces; Ontario and Quebec combined generate another 37%; British Columbia represents about 7% and the Maritimes produce the remainder at 3%. [see Figure 1 below].
Different agricultural products and practices impact the types and amounts of agricultural plastics used. Field crop production, which includes grains and oilseeds as well as the cultivation of hay and fodder for livestock, accounts for 59% of the total amount generated annually in the form of grain bags, silage hulls, ‘bale envelopes, press envelopes and bunker covers. Vegetable production, whether in the open field or in the greenhouse, accounts for an additional 10% of the annual total and includes items such as propagation trays and greenhouse films.
The use of plastic in other sectors and by province is detailed in the report.
“Cleanfarms currently collects around 6,000 tonnes of agricultural plastics per year under its existing programs. This figure is up from around 2,000 tonnes in 2015, ”noted Friesen. “With support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program, Cleanfarms is launching six pilot projects designed to help recover more of essential high-volume agricultural plastics. We expect that we will see the recovery numbers climb year on year, ”said Friesen.
Research study recommendations
In the report, Cleanfarms noted that a phased national strategy is needed to enable the industry to divert more plastics that can be recycled into the Canadian economy, including:
- Increased awareness to inform farmers about the possibilities of using existing programs designed for them
- Develop best management practices through pilot projects to establish appropriate preparation procedures to ensure that plastics collected are recyclable and to transition from pilot projects to permanent programs
- Develop technologies that improve the quality of collected materials before their delivery to end markets
- Develop and authorize processes that integrate used agricultural plastics into the manufacture of new products
- Provide support, where appropriate, to the development of Extended Producer Responsibility policies to ensure a stable source of funding to cover recycling programs and long-term costs
“The fact that long-standing plastics management programs have been put in place and operated voluntarily by the agriculture industry in Canada is a testament to the industry’s lead,” said Friesen. “Our efforts will continue to focus on expanding recycling in the agricultural sector to help farmers meet their sustainability goals.”
Clean farms is an agricultural industry stewardship organization that contributes to a healthier environment and a sustainable future by recovering and recycling agricultural and related industrial plastics, packaging and products. It is funded by its members in the crop protection, fertilizers, seeds, animal health drugs, ball to wrap up and grain bag industries. Its staff are located in Lethbridge, Alberta; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Etobicoke, Ontario; and St-Bruno, Quebec.
The photos accompanying this announcement are available on