Grain bag recycling in Saskatchewan: from good to great

Author: Tammy Shields, Cleanfarms Western Region Program Coordinator

Have you heard SUMA is now Municipalities of Saskatchewan? They recently held a webinar on stewardship programs, and like them, I am always excited to share how farmers are supporting the grain bag recycling program and a healthy, sustainable environment.

Along with my colleagues from two other stewardship organizations (Electronic Products Recycling Association and Product Care Association of Canada) I had the opportunity to take part in a recent webinar, Extending the Life of Your Landfill: A Conversation with Recycling Stakeholders, organized by the Municipalities of Saskatchewan.

I used my time to share the progress that we’ve made since the permanent, government-regulated grain bag recycling program was launched in 2018: 37 collection partners helping move over 3,000 metric tonnes of grain bags to recycling markets, keeping these single-use, plastic bags out of landfills and off of farmland.

A theme that emerged from this webinar is that Saskatchewan residents have access to several strongly supported waste diversion & recycling programs. However, we can’t stop there. Collectively, there is a desire to move from good to great.

Taking grain bag recycling program to the next level in Saskatchewan

Based on our 30-year history of helping farmers manage their ag waste, whether containers or seed & pesticide bags, we know that when the simple, convenient stewardship programs are made available, farmers will overwhelmingly use them

Cleanfarms is currently recruiting grain bag collection sites in strategic areas: the southern part of the province: the Coronach, Esterhazy and Rosetown areas. Private businesses, municipalities, watershed groups and regional waste management authorities have the opportunity to join our collection network and make grain bag recycling even more accessible to their communities. Collection partners are eligible for an incentive based on the tonnage collected and optional additional services like grain bag rollers and baling services. I encourage interested parties to get in touch with me to start the conversation.

Maintaining and expanding end markets for valuable plastics

We also need to ensure that there are reliable end markets for these 300 lb. plastic, single use items. End market development involves multiple factors. Like any commodity, we need to ensure that Saskatchewan grain bags collected by Cleanfarms continue to gain a reputation for quality (reducing contamination and consistent & optimal truckload volumes are a few considerations), amongst recyclers.

Grain bag roller fabricators and other equipment manufacturers are always willing to explore ways, whether through technological improvements or consumer education, to more tightly roll grain bags to minimize contamination and ensure consistency of rolled material. A few of our collection sites offer baling services, which assists us even further.

Cleanfarms has also had the pleasure of collaborating with new ventures like PolyAg Recycling Ltd. out of Bashaw, Alberta, a recycling facility that is presently testing out equipment and processes to further advance shared, Prairie-wide goals to keep ag-plastics in the economy and recycled into new products.

As I approach my three year anniversary working with Cleanfarms, and my 10 year anniversary in grain bag recycling, I’m extremely grateful to all the supporters who have helped Cleanfarms build a solid, high performing program that keeps getting better.

For more information

To find out more about Cleanfarms grain bag recycling programs in Saskatchewan and across the prairies, please see: cleanfarms.ca/materials/grain-bags/.