Farmers talk, Cleanfarms listens: expanding programs to serve on-the-ground interests

Author: Alyssa Brown, Administration and Operations Representative

We’re pleased to share the first in our new blog series through which we’ll introduce members of the Cleanfarms staff team, and let them share some of their interests and insights in their own words. We hope this will help add a face to the names of people who you interact with when you call, email, text or check in with us in other ways, and we hope you’ll enjoy getting to know us as much as we enjoy every chance we have to spend time working with you!

Throughout the past several years, Cleanfarms has expanded their programs throughout Canada, increased their collection rates and managed to start new successful pilot programs. Being a part of such a dynamic team is extremely exciting, bringing many opportunities. I am glad to be back!

I was very fortunate to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies, minor in Geography and Environmental Management from the Environment and Business program at the University for Waterloo. During that time, I participated in the co-op program that the University offers and was excited to land an 8-month position with Cleanfarms in January 2016. Last year, when I was offered a permanent position and return to Cleanfarms, I jumped at the chance.

A lot has changed over my 4-year absence. In 2016, 5.2 million under 23L containers were collected, with an increase to 5.6 million in 2020. Our non-deposit bulk container program has nearly doubled with 35,000 units collected in 2016, and 62,000 units in 2020.

As a Coop student, Alyssa was an engaged contributor to the ag waste characterization process

In my co-op placement I found out how Cleanfarms collection sites and events operate, as I had the opportunity to help with our Western and Eastern programs. I also participated in a number of site visits, where I was able to speak with a few of our program collection sites. I was struck by the enthusiasm that ag retailers and growers had to participate in Cleanfarms programs, and the enthusiasm they had to make the programs even better.

I’m in a different role now, as an Administration & Operations Representative and one of the things I appreciate most is that I’m now a part of what goes on behind the scenes to manage the volume of plastic that I saw while in my co-op role. Part of my role is supporting our 1,200 collection sites (yes, that may be me that you’re emailing or talking to – please feel free to ask!) and answering the many great questions that come my way. The people I talk to at collection sites share my passion for helping farmers keep their yards clean and ensuring that plastic containers are recycled into valuable new products like farm drainage tile, which is often used back in the field. The increases in our collection figures show that their efforts, along with my team’s efforts, are paying off.

One of the things I really like about Cleanfarms is that when our growers talk, we listen. We know that farmers want more ways to recycle items like silage wrap, bale wrap and twine. Cleanfarms is now delivering pilots in various provinces to explore ways to recycle these items, but there is an equal focus on continuous improvement for our long-standing programs. We know that farmers in Alberta & Manitoba were interested in new ways to transport containers to collection sites. Cleanfarms responded by offering an ag collection/recycling bag initiative. We appreciate that growers were willing to share their interests, while ag-retailers were keen to help us with distribution and are equally open to new ways of working.

Cleanfarms has grown these past few years and part of this is because there is so much willingness amongst our stakeholders to assist farmers. My colleagues and I continue to service the industry with enthusiasm and dedication, which is outlined in our 2020 Annual Report. I’m looking forward to see what the next 4 years brings and being part of the developments that are coming in this progressive and forward-thinking industry!