Counting, counting and more counting: Adventures in summer student life

As summer students with the SWRC, Grace & Brooklyn learned about ag recycling by helping Cleanfarms conduct ag waste characterization studies

Author: Grace Gauthier & Brooklyn Miller, summer students with the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council (SWRC)

Summer is often seen as time off from school, labs, and learning. That is, unless you are a summer student for the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council (SWRC). Assignments are still present; they are just not in the classroom.  One of our tasks this summer was to help Cleanfarms with waste characterization studies.

We met our Cleanfarms contact, Tammy Shields, at Curtis Construction near Naicam, SK. The recycling facility is off the beaten path and has a long term relationship with Cleanfarms. Once we were suited up, Tammy showed us which bags to analyze. We sorted, counted and weighed more than 1,000 bags that were dropped off through the Seed, Pesticide & Inoculant (SPI) bag program. There were two kinds; paper bags and poly-woven totes. The majority were seed bags (92%), pretty much all canola. We also analyzed pesticide (4%) and inoculant (3%) bags. In addition to SPI bags, we also categorized materials returned through the Containers, Totes and Drums Program. Cleanfarms’ Serena Klippenstein was there to show us what to look for, and we did more sorting, counting and weighing. This went on for four days – it was A LOT of counting.

Overall, it was a significant amount of work, but the week we spent doing the waste characterization studies was one of the more fun times we had this summer. We were outside in the fresh air and there was not a cloud in sight. Our favorite part was seeing Tammy’s enthusiasm for this work and the hands on roll she played. She is the definition of someone who teaches by example. What a sight!

It was interesting to learn about the ag recycling habits of farmers in Saskatchewan. After seeing most of these materials linked to one crop, canola, we did some digging and found out some interesting facts about this oilseed and its significance to Western Canadian farmers. Though neither of us see our career path currently leading to agriculture, it was a really great opportunity to get exposure to this field, meet some new people and gain some new skills.

Grace Gauthier & Brooklyn Miller are summer students with the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council (SWRC). Over the last decade, Cleanfarms has often partnered with SWRC on field research in Saskatchewan.

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