Learning, growing, eager to share new ideas. This is Cleanfarms 2022…

Author: Kim Timmer, Cleanfarms Manager of Stakeholder Relations

Like many of my peers, the end of the year is a time for reflection and looking ahead.

For Cleanfarms, 2021 was marked with some significant achievements. On the operations end, collection volumes continue to trend upwards and my colleagues launched an upgraded online service request system, which helps support our 1,400-plus collection sites.

2021 also brought significant movement on the policy front. This is an important, but sometimes unseen, component of any stewardship or recycling programs. Whether it is provincial extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations that introduce obligations on industry, internal policies that outline selection criteria for collection sites, contractors or end markets to ensure high HS&E standards, or corporate policies that enable competitors in the marketplace to come together and collaborate, policy is critical to enabling long-term success.

On the EPR policy front, we’ve seen significant movement across several jurisdictions this year:

  • Manitoba – a new government regulated grain bag and baler twine program was approved.
  • Quebec – a very comprehensive draft regulation is under development.
  • Prince Edward Island -regulatory amendments were introduced to keep a wide variety of ag plastics out of landfill

As I work on these files, I can’t help but reflect back on the first Product Stewardship Program (PSP) that I led on behalf of Cleanfarms, when, in 2016, Saskatchewan introduced the The Agricultural Packaging Product Waste Stewardship Regulation.

I took on the policy challenge associated with this new regulation, where a significant milestone was a government approved PSP. My friend and colleague, Tammy Shields was tasked with setting up on the ground operations. Tammy was (and still is) the most qualified person for the job, given her long history, expertise and overall enthusiasm for ag plastics recycling. For both of us, it was and still is a marathon. The work we do is not a sprint.

Our team is proud of what we have accomplished over the past 4 years – 45+ collection sites, 7 contractors, 14 first sellers working together to help Saskatchewan farmers get 300 lb. plus, single-use grain bags off farms to where they can be recycled into new plastic products. This program has successfully weathered unstable recycling markets, significant expansion and changing storage needs.

As with any newer program, we’re always looking for ways to improve what we’re doing. And, we get substantial input, both positive and negative; fact based and otherwise – but all of which is reviewed by our team.

I welcome any opportunity to answer questions about Cleanfarms, especially questions about policy, including the critical financial aspect of Cleanfarms and its programs. Often, my answers need more than 280 characters (Twitter LOL). Why? Because sharing the facts and accurately outlining the intricacies in the work we do takes time, thoughtfulness & a few more words. And I’d like to hear yours too.

On that note, give me a call or let’s chat in person. (Tammy and I will be back at the Crop Production Show (Booth A142) in January along with Ag in Motion in the summer.)

We’ve also added some new resources to our website, which answers some of the recent questions we have heard and sets the record straight on some other comments I’ve seen online. You can find these resources here.

There are many different factors that need to be combined to deliver solid, sustainable and long-term programs. The results ultimately create a system that farmers, and industry, can count on year-over-year… which is what Cleanfarms is all about.

As more and more stakeholders explore solutions to managing ag plastics, I predict that they will continue to look to the work done to advance grain bag recycling program in Saskatchewan as a template that they can build on. Saskatchewan farmers are recycling, talking about it, sometimes arguing about it, and ultimately making it happen.

To Canadian growers, and all those in Canada’s ag industry, we thank you for taking time to incorporate Cleanfarms programs into your agricultural operations and your business models. We welcome your suggestions, critique and new ideas.

Let’s continue to work together, and discuss in a respectful manner how we can continue to manage agricultural wastes in a sustainable way.

As we make our way toward 2022, please, let’s stay in touch.

  • Grain bag at harvest time

  • Rolled grain bags incoming at collection site

  • Tammy Shields (Cleanfarms Western Region Program Coordinator) monitoring grain bag rolling operations

  • Rolled grain bags, ready to be loaded up and shipped off for recycling

  • A full load of rolled grain bags ready for recycling!