Multiplying end of life stewardship

Author: Barry Friesen

2015 is CleanFARMS’ fifth anniversary. Five is a prime number. 2015 is not but it is the result of multiplying three prime numbers together: 5, 13, and 31.

As you may have guessed by now, I’m a numbers guy, an engineer by training, who focuses on metrics and this is what CleanFARMS and its 38 member companies have accomplished over the past five years:

  • Collected and recycled 23,286,836 empty containers;
  • Safely disposed of 807,868 kilograms of obsolete pesticides;
  • Collected 179,542 empty pesticide bags in the Maritimes; and
  • Safely disposed of 9,791 kilograms of obsolete equine/livestock medications.

We recently hit two significant milestones: 2014 brought in our two millionth kilogram of obsolete pesticide and we collected our 100 millionth empty pesticide container in 2013.

Time to get out those calculators (or for nostalgia’s sake, grab a slide rule) to see what this means.

Creating plastic requires the use of crude oil. Fortunately, the plant science industry’s recycling initiatives are reducing oil consumption. For every 100 million containers we recycle we can save more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil from being used. Every recycled container helps protect the environment.

So, what is in store for 2015?

Our goal is to strengthen our existing stewardship programs with service enhancements that offer farmers, retailers and our members value.

We will be investing significantly in our Alberta operations, a region with lots of potential and a growing appetite for good stewardship.

We are lucky to work with over 130 municipal collection sites across Alberta where farmers can return, at no charge, their empty, clean, triple-rinsed, under 23 litre commercial pesticide and fertilizer containers for recycling. These sites are designed to safely store these smaller containers while bulk containers should be returned to ag-retailers.

As the industry moves towards using more bulk containers, we will be working with Alberta’s more than 300 ag-retailers to deliver a province-wide pilot program aimed at delivering a one-stop, industry-wide approach for managing these bigger one-way bulk containers.

Add to this an obsolete pesticide collection campaign that spans two years, with southern Alberta in 2015 and northern Alberta in 2016, and our investment in the province increases exponentially.

Getting the message out to Alberta’s farmers is integral to the success of CleanFARMS’ end-of-life stewardship programs in the province. An extensive communications plan is underway to complement our service enhancements and ensure that farmers are returning the right containers and products to the right place.

Outside of Alberta, the common denominator to our 2015 operations is continuous improvement and supporting our partners. A prime example of this is our Ontario and Quebec empty seed and pesticide bag program which is in its third year of pilots. Using this program, farmers can manage their empty pesticide and seed bags of all sizes through a CleanFARMS collection partner, many of whom already support the empty pesticide and fertilizer container program.

Life may be a numbers game, but when stewardship is involved, the benefits are crystal clear.

Barry Friesen, general manager of CleanFARMS