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Canadian farmers return over 131.5 million containers in effort to manage agriculture industry waste

Cleanfarms' 2019 numbers for plastics and other ag-waste programs showing positive results

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Cleanfarms has released its 2019 Annual Report showing that Canadian farmers are strengthening their commitment to land, water and air stewardship by returning increasing amounts of ag-plastic waste such as empty pesticide and fertilizer containers and grain bags for recycling.

In its 2019 Annual Report, Cleanfarms released recovery results for its five permanent collection programs comprising single-use plastic pesticide and fertilizer containers that are 23 litres and under; non-deposit bulk pesticide and fertilizer totes and drums; grain bags; unwanted and old pesticides and livestock and equine medications; and seed and pesticide bags collected in Eastern Canada. 

In its largest Canada-wide program for pesticide and fertilizer jugs 23 litres and under, farmers returned nearly 5.5 million containers in 2019, bringing the total number collected since the program began 30 years ago to 131.5 million jugs.

Placed end to end, those containers would stretch from St. John's, NL to Victoria, B.C. and back three times. Plastic containers are recycled into new products such as farm drainage tile.

Another program that is increasingly important collects empty non-deposit bulk drums and totes ranging in size from 23 to 1,000 litres. These large containers are becoming a more popular choice for delivering pesticides and fertilizer to farms. In 2019, nearly 55,400 empty containers were recovered, representing an increase of 25% by volume over 2018 recovery.

The collection of empty agricultural seed, pesticide and fertilizer bags in Eastern Canada climbed 17% by volume in 2019 compared to 2018. In total, Cleanfarms' partners collected more than 429,000 kgs, more than half of which was collected in Quebec, where recovery numbers jumped to 282,500 kg compared to 194,000 kgs in 2018. Seed, pesticide and fertilizer bags are collected for environmentally safe disposal. 

Recycling grain bags under the Saskatchewan provincially-regulated program posted another successful year in 2019 with 2,256 tonnes of used bags recycled, a 44% increase in volume over 2018. A pilot program in Manitoba to collect used grain bags, bale and silage wrap, and twine recovered 51 tonnes for recycling, up from 34 tonnes in 2018.

At the core of Cleanfarms' commitment to help farmers manage agriculture packaging and products responsibly is its unwanted pesticide and livestock/equine medications collection program. Operated in partnership with the Canadian Animal Health Institute, the program provides an essential, no-cost service to farmers allowing them to take old, obsolete materials to Cleanfarms drop-off locations. These materials are transported by a licensed waste hauler to specialized facilities where they are disposed of safely. The program rotates to all regions of Canada every three years. In 2019, farmers in the British Columbia and Alberta Peace Region, Northern Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland returned more than 214,600 kgs of unwanted pesticides and 5,840 kg of obsolete farm animal medications for safe disposal.

"While plastic products like grain bags and containers like jugs and totes are essential tools on Canadian farms, they become ag-waste when farmers are done with them. Cleanfarms' industry-funded programs give farmers options to manage this non-organic waste, helping them steward their land for present and future generations," said Cleanfarms General Manager Barry Friesen.

"Our goal is to keep expanding our programs to offer farmers convenient and effective environmentally sustainable options to manage ag-waste on their farms."

For more about Cleanfarms:

Cleanfarms celebrates 10 years with 50,000 tonnes of ag-waste recycled

Cleanfarms has ag-plastic waste in the bag by Barbara McConnell.

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Etobicoke, ON
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