Two years in… strengthening ag plastics recycling in Kent District, BC
Author: Tammy Shields, Cleanfarms Saskatchewan Program Advisor
In late May, I had the chance to spend two days on the road in Abbotsford, connecting with and learning from local dairy farmers.
Experiences like this are a gift amidst the day-to-day grind of helping Saskatchewan farmers recycle nearly 2 million small containers and 36,000 totes and drums each year, in addition to other materials.
While Cleanfarms has been working with the Kent District dairy farmers since 2020, the area has been extremely active in ag plastics recycling since 2014, when local farmers recognized the need for a better way to manage the materials that help keep their herds healthy all season long.
The community set to work using a bag-based recycling system for used silage plastics before eventually connecting with Cleanfarms for additional expertise and access to more reliable end markets. My colleagues and I are able to provide resources that are made possible through pilot projects, like the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) in its Here for Tomorrow campaign. Through this effort, DFC supports its commitment to promote and advance sustainability in the dairy sector.
Cleanfarms has now helped move several truckloads of material to end markets in Alberta (where almost all our grain bags are shipped) and a test market in Pennsylvania. What is particularly impressive is that plastic quality has improved substantially since the project’s inception.
The project’s success is due in part to the education and awareness around the importance of minimizing material contamination and using compactors to efficiently compress ag plastics. It’s these kinds of local innovations that I find so intriguing:
Students at the University of Fraser Valley developed their own in-house design for an ag plastic compactor. I’m always impressed when young minds are inspired to take care of their land and get involved in ag plastic recycling.
Cordine farms repurposed a hydraulic downstroke cardboard baler bound for steel recycling into a usable compactor for ag film. Building on their initial success, local farmers from the Kent district now bring their totes full of ag film to the farm on collection days and use this compactor to compress it. Even the twine from bales of hay or straw gets repurposed to secure the bales of plastic.
As I left the beautiful Abbotsford scenery behind and returned to the equally impressive Saskatchewan fields, I was energized and ready to keep the momentum growing in the province I call home.
It was inspiring to see a group of dedicated farmers who have been so passionate about stewardship for so long. They just never give up. It makes sense to them; if the plastic can be diverted and recycled, then it should be. They hope one day, recycling ag plastics will be common practice… for the health of their land, animals, soil, water, and air around them – and so do I.
Tammy Shields is Cleanfarms’ Saskatchewan Program Advisor. She can be reached at 306-341-4460, email@example.com