Breaking down the Environmental Handling Fee for Grain Bags in Saskatchewan

Author: Kim Timmer, Manager, Stakeholder Relations

I’ve been working on Cleanfarms’ grain bag recycling program in Saskatchewan for about two and a half years. It’s a marathon, not a race.

My role in this program has evolved since The Agricultural Packaging Product Waste Stewardship Regulation came into effect in August 2016 and so too have the conversations I’m having with the wide variety of stakeholders involved.

Right now, these conversations tend to focus on one part of the program: the non-refundable Environmental Handling Fee (EHF), which came into effective in November 2018.

The most common questions that I’m getting are along the lines of ‘why do you need EHF?’ and ‘how is it being spent?’ I’m happy to answer these questions.

All recycling programs, whether for electronics, packaging, printed paper or household hazardous waste cost more to operate than is recovered in revenues received for the sale of the materials. The EHF exists to cover this difference.

Here is the breakdown of how the EHF is used:

  • About one quarter is allocated to collection site (primarily municipal) incentive payments. Cleanfarms currently partners with 32 collection sites, or drop off points, across the province. These sites are compensated based on the tonnage they collect. Incentive payments help collection sites cover human resource, equipment, insurance and administrative costs incurred through the delivery of this program.
  • Operational costs like loading, logistics and transportation, account for the bulk of costs and nearly half of the EHF is used for this. There is a substantial logistical component to moving these 300 lb bags from a collection site to an end market. Recycling markets have shifted significantly recently; operational costs are now most often the responsibility of the shipper/program manager and not the receiver of the plastic.
  • Promotion and education and administration account for about one quarter of how the EHF is used. Promotion and education helps users know the ‘who, what where, when and how’ of this program. Administration includes salaries, IT, office, insurance, and standard administrative, legal and finance expenses (defined slightly differently from other organizations).

We believe it’s very important to discuss the financial components of this program. We’re also keen to talk about the important environmental benefits that are a direct result of the work Saskatchewan’s seven-plus stewardship organizations do. Collectively, we are working together to minimize the environmental impact of various types of products or packaging used in the province.

Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging about the conversations I have with our stakeholders. Feel free to send your questions and ideas my way or call me for a chat.

Kim Timmer is Cleanfarms’ manager of stakeholder relations and has been involved with ag plastics recycling initiatives since 2011.

Cleanfarms, Canada’s leading agricultural stewardship organization, is best known for its empty container recycling program and unwanted pesticide and old livestock medication collection campaign. The organization is contracted by industry to operate Saskatchewan’s grain bag recycling program.