Cleanfarms Predicting 2020 a Successful Year for Collecting Ag Waste for Recycling and Safe Disposal

By Barry Friesen, Executive Director, Cleanfarms

(Etobicoke, ON – December 23, 2020) – As the final days of 2020 wind down, we can look forward to the new year with optimism that we will wrestle COVID-19 into submission. However, we cannot let 2020 go into the history books with only the COVID story to mark it. We can celebrate memorable achievements, too.

For one thing, at Cleanfarms, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. In the decade since 2010, we’ve gone from operating two programs to collect empty pesticide jugs and obsolete pesticides to operating five permanent programs to capture small pesticide and fertilizer containers and grain bags for recycling; recover non-deposit drums and totes; and collect seed and fertilizer bags in eastern Canada and unwanted and old pesticides and farm animal health medications nationally for safe disposal.

In addition, we have been operating pilot programs in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to point the way to recover more ag plastic waste for products like used twine, grain bags and silage wrap. Giving farmers opportunities to recycle plastic waste not only ensures that it stays out of the environment but also reinvests the raw materials and energy into a circular economy, creates green jobs, inspires innovation in agricultural packaging and contributes to greater sustainability in agriculture.

2020’s COVID challenges did create a delay in getting our container collection programs underway in many areas of Canada to ensure we minimized the spread of the virus; however, once social distancing protocols were properly in place, all collections began. Despite the delay, we are optimistic that farmers may have set a new record for returning small pesticide and fertilizer containers (23 litres and under) for recycling.

Final results will be calculated in the new year, but it appears that farmers were eager to return more empty containers than ever before, helping Cleanfarms get past the 65% return rate we’ve been holding at over the past few years. In 2019, farmers brought back nearly 5.5 million containers so we have a big number to top. Similar positive results may be true for the return of non-deposit pesticide and fertilizer drums and totes, too.

It looks like grain bag recycling across the Prairies enjoyed a stellar year, as well. Through its Saskatchewan office, Cleanfarms has been running the government-regulated grain bag recycling program in the province since 2018. In 2019, Saskatchewan farmers recycled 2,256 tonnes of used plastic grain bags, a 44 per cent increase in volume over 2018. So far in 2020, we know SK farmers have recycled just over 2,700 tonnes, a 20% increase over last year!

And it keeps getting better.

The unwanted pesticide and old livestock and equine medications program is another success story. Preliminary results show that this program, which collected materials in British Columbia’s Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley, Southern Saskatchewan, Quebec and Prince Edward Island, enjoyed excellent participation from farmers.

What’s ahead for 2021?

I’ve been in the business of resource recovery and waste management for more than 25 years and this year feel more optimistic than ever about the innovation, new developments and opportunities for plastics used for packaging and one-way products. The degree of effort that ag industry stewards of plastic packaging have been putting toward finding solutions to contribute to the sustainability of plastics is phenomenal. In the agricultural sector, the 70 plus member companies of Cleanfarms want to ensure that the products they market are safe, reliable and meet product standards, both for the products and for the packaging.

Farmers want the assurance that when they use these products, options are available to manage the packaging or the used product at end-of-life, too.

Cleanfarms members are at work now figuring out how to transition packaging to more sustainable options. Fewer jugs, more totes and reusable containers, greater use of post consumer recycled materials will be part of the strategy. Many of these circular economy improvements won’t be obvious. Farmers won’t see the changes, but they’ll be there. What they will see is more opportunities to recycle, expanding their ability to leave their land as good or better than they got it.

Barry Friesen is the executive director of Cleanfarms and has led the organization since its creation in 2010. Cleanfarms is an agricultural industry stewardship organization that contributes to a healthier environment and a sustainable future by recovering and recycling agricultural and related industry plastics, packaging and products. It is funded by its members in the crop protection, seed, fertilizer, animal health medication and grain bag industries. It has offices in Lethbridge, Alberta; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Etobicoke, Ontario; and St-Bruno, Quebec.




Contact: Barbara McConnell, Cleanfarms Media, 416-452-2373,

Farmers and Other Stakeholders Invited to Comment on Manitoba Plan to Transition to Permanent Ag Plastic Waste Recycling

MOOSE JAW, SK (December 16, 2020) – A pilot project in Manitoba that collects and recycles plastic agricultural waste such as grain bags and baler twine is set to transition to a permanent, province-wide, industry-funded ag recycling program in 2021. The organization that operates the provincially-funded pilot, Cleanfarms, has been asked by Manitoba Conservation and Climate (MCC) to develop and consult on a stewardship transition plan

Cleanfarms has developed a first draft of the plan, Manitoba Ag Plastic Plan, and is inviting farmers, companies that supply ag plastics to farmers and other stakeholders to comment on it. Written comments on this version can be submitted until January 12, 2021. They should be sent to Cleanfarms’ Manager of Stakeholder Relations, Kim Timmer at

Comments are encouraged from producer groups, industry and municipal associations, as well as Manitoba farmers.

Cleanfarms developed the plan based on data collected in the Manitoba pilots and on best practices honed over years of running similar ag waste recycling programs across the Prairies. Part of the goal is to harmonize ag waste recycling programs in the Prairie provinces.

Once comments are received and processed, a second version of the plan will be submitted to MCC on January 30, 2021. Cleanfarms hopes to receive final plan approval from the provincial government by the end of March so that it can begin transition to the industry-funded model in early spring.

Funding for the permanent program will be managed through an Environmental Handling Fee (EHF) collected by companies that supply farmers with grain bags and twine at the time these items are purchased.

“Grain bags and twine are valuable tools that farmers use to grow food and to operate their farms more efficiently. However, these materials can be difficult to manage effectively at end of life. The Cleanfarms stewardship program would see them recycled into new products, such as plastic bags,” noted Cleanfarms Executive Director Barry Friesen.

Estimates suggest that approximately 1,400 tonnes of non-organic ag plastic waste are generated by Manitoba farms annually.

In 2019, Manitoba farmers returned 51 tonnes of ag plastic waste in the pilot program, up from 34 metric tonnes the year before.

“Studies have shown us that Manitoba farmers want recycling programs. We’re anticipating that should a permanent program move ahead, we’ll see the number of recovered tonnes start to climb steadily. And that’s good for Manitoba’s sustainable agriculture sector and the environment,” Friesen said.

About Cleanfarms

Cleanfarms is an agricultural industry stewardship organization that contributes to a healthier environment and a sustainable future by recovering and recycling agricultural and related industry plastics, packaging and products. It is funded by its members in the crop protection, seed, fertilizer, animal health medication and grain bag industries.

A list of pilot collection sites is available on the Cleanfarms/Manitoba page on the Cleanfarms website.

Cleanfarms Launches Saskatchewan Pilot to Collect Baler Twine for Recycling

– Part of Cleanfarms’ Zero Plastic Waste Strategy for Farms-

MOOSE JAW, SK – (December 10, 2020) — Cleanfarms took a giant step closer to its goal of helping producers achieve zero plastic waste in farming operations today, as it launches a pilot program in Saskatchewan to collect baler twine for recycling.

Baler twine is an essential agricultural tool to wrap and store hay, straw and silage, but at the end of its useful life, plastic twine is challenging to manage. Disposal in landfill can result in the twine twisting around the wheels of landfill equipment and disposal by burning or burying is detrimental to the environment. In Saskatchewan alone, an estimated 1,100 to 1,300 tonnes of twine are used in farm operations.

“Beyond collecting empty grain bags for recycling, the next most important item for us to focus on is twine. Getting it out of landfill and burn piles and into recycling bags has been a Cleanfarms goal for the past few years,” said Cleanfarms Executive Director Barry Friesen.

He said that this Saskatchewan pilot, which will involve more than 30 collection locations will lay the groundwork for permanent programs for twine and other agricultural plastic wastes that will be implemented in farm communities throughout Canada.

“Saskatchewan farmers’ participation in this program will help us understand how to create a circular economy for the recovery of twine once farmers are finished with it,” Friesen added.

He pointed to the Cleanfarms program, ‘Building a Zero-Plastic Waste Strategy for Agriculture”, which is partially funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP)* as the catalyst that has made this pilot possible.

The Cleanfarms 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.

Already underway is the grower survey component which is targeted for completion in December. The survey asks growers about current practices and attitudes toward disposal options for various types of agricultural plastic waste generated in their operations. The results will inform the development of additional pilot projects that will be conducted throughout the agriculture sector.

Some pilots in Quebec are already operating; others, like the Saskatchewan twine pilots are getting underway now. Pilots are also expected to roll out in the northern interior of British Columbia as well as in specific areas of Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island in 2021.

All the pilots are designed to demonstrate the best practices critical in successful ag waste management. They will help Cleanfarms determine how to provide farmers with more opportunities to manage plastic waste in environmentally responsible ways.

About Cleanfarms

Cleanfarms is an agricultural industry stewardship organization that contributes to a healthier environment and a sustainable future by recovering and recycling agricultural and related industry plastics, packaging and products. It is funded by its members in the crop protection, crop storage, ag plastic and animal health industries.

For a list of pilot collection sites go to Saskatchewan Pilot Program: Recycling Twine on the website.

*This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP), a $50.3 million, five-year investment to help the agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive.


Contact: Barbara McConnell, Cleanfarms Media, 416-452-2373,

Plastic twine is commonly used in farm operations to bind hay, straw and silage for storage, but at the end of its useful life, twine is challenging to manage. This Cleanfarms pilot aims to develop a stable recycling program for agricultural twine (Photo: Cleanfarms)