Agriculture and its contribution to circular economy

November 8, 2017

It protects the environment, drives innovation and helps the industry stay competitive. Circular economy marks the next big step in our path toward creating a more sustainable future.

The circular economy has garnered much interest recently. The approach that challenges how organizations address resource efficiency is gaining traction globally. Here at home, many businesses have embraced the idea that today’s goods can be tomorrow’s resources and that an economy that works in loops can lead to cost savings, waste prevention, job creation and economic opportunities.

Within the agricultural realm, the circular economy approach suggests that the industry can achieve greater sustainability simply by keeping more resources and materials in use for as long as possible. This can be achieved in a number of different ways, including increased product durability, reuse and recycling.

For instance, Cleanfarms recycles used pesticide containers into new plastic products such as farm drainage tile. The manufacturers of this tile are able to ensure the plastic from containers gets as much life as possible, obtain a less expensive source of raw material all while minimizing use of virgin resin. And while discussions often revolve around cost savings opportunities, environmental impact lies at the heart of circular economy.

This means that instead of the traditional make-use-dispose linear economy, we now have an important tool to reduce energy consumption, resource depletion and pollution. And while great strides have been made to improve resource efficiency within Canada’s agricultural community, the call for this new approach is getting louder.

While plastics are used in a broad range of applications, in agriculture specifically, it can help growers increase crop production, improve food quality and reduce the ecological footprint of their activity.

Tile drainage can help manage high water tables and accumulated salts in the soil, and increase the land available for farming. In drier conditions, tile drainage lessens drought stress in low rainfall periods. Across the country, we’re seeing a growing up-take of the tile drainage due to recent wet weather. Improved technology, which now allows growers to install their own tile more easily, has also contributed to the growing popularity of tile drainage.

Circular thinking and zero waste goals appear to be gaining traction within the agricultural industry. In 2016, more than 5.2 million empty pesticide and fertilizer containers were returned by growers across the country, and nearly 300,000 kilograms of empty seed and pesticide bags were collected at over 1,000 collection depots and municipal collection sites.

As more growers adopt a conviction that a healthy environment is a precursor for a sustainable future, we anticipate that the shift in the attitudes will revolutionize waste management and resource recovery in the agricultural industry. For more information on how to better manage on-farm waste, including agricultural plastics, visit

CleanFARMS is a non-profit industry stewardship organization committed to environmental responsibility through the proper management of agricultural waste. Our programs manage agricultural plastic and inorganic farm waste across Canada and have earned a reputation of excellence around the world. 

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