Single-use plastics is still in the news; this is our view

Author: Barry Friesen, Cleanfarms General Manager

In light of the recently released Minister of Environment and Climate Change Mandate Letter, here is what Cleanfarms had to say about this topic over the summer of 2019. 

Over the past few days there have been two government announcements that are related, in some way, to single use plastics that could have impacts on Canadian agriculture.

At the federal level, the government announced plans to:

  • Ban some single-use plastics as early as 2021; and,
  • Ensure that companies that manufacture plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging are responsible for managing the collection and recycling of their plastic waste.

In Ontario the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks wishes to:

  • Improve diversion rates and increase what materials can be recycled;
  • Reduce litter and waste in communities and parks; and,
  • Improve Ontario’s Blue Box Program by requiring producers to pay for the recycling of the products they produce.

Plastics, including single-use plastics, make up the bulk of the 4,500 tonnes of material that Cleanfarms managed on behalf of its members last year. It is estimated that 40,000 tonnes of agricultural plastics are used each year in Canada which means we managed just over 10% of what was generated.

So what do these announcements mean for the stakeholders and others involved in Cleanfarms’ suite of programs?

While these initiatives focus mainly on domestic or residential packaging and products, governments are also looking at overall waste diversion and believe more producer-pay programs, like Cleanfarms’ existing suite of programs, will address these initiatives. This means that plastic products that currently don’t have programs or low recycling rates may be regulated.

This is also a good reminder that we shouldn’t be complacent. We can, and should do better. Luckily continuous improvement is engrained in both the recycling and ag sector, so this is a natural fit.

How do we get there?

Fortunately, we’ve already started. In addition to our permanent, self-sustaining programs (learn more here), we are operating pilot programs to collect certain ag plastics in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec.

Cleanfarms has also applied for a three-year funding grant from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to work with agriculture producer groups across Canada to develop a path forward for better management of agricultural plastics.

We also know farmers want programs, too. Our research consistently shows that farmers want the best options to deal with plastic wastes at the end of their life.

Stay tuned. It is an exciting time to work in the plastics and recycling sector. 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of collecting ag plastic containers for recycling and we predict significant advancements before we even make it to 35.

For more information:

View: Cleanfarms’ Fact Sheet on Single Use Plastics in Agriculture

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.