Where we started & where we’ve gone; Look how far we’ve come

Author: Tammy Shields, Cleanfarms Saskatchewan Program Advisor

This month marks two years since I’ve been with Cleanfarms, where I spend my time enhancing and protecting two fields that I care deeply about: agriculture and the environment.

With support from the farming community, my colleagues and so many others, I’m proud to have been at the forefront of developing a trailblazing system to recover grain bag across the province for recycling.

My introduction to grain bags was in Milestone, Saskatchewan in 2010 where I helped set up one of the very first recycling micro-pilots. (I remember that same year, my eldest son was in Grade 4. This month, he started his second year at the University of Regina!)

What started as a short-term project has grown into a first-of-its-kind, province-wide program with tangible gains:

  • During my collaboration with Simply-Ag in 2012, six collection sites helped farmers recycle 125 tonnes of material. In 2014, nine collection sites brought in 845 tonnes. Our 2019 tonnage to-date: 1,580 tonnes.
  • I now have the privilege of working with a network of 34 collection sites, three contractors/loaders and numerous Saskatchewan trucking companies which help move these large, single-use plastic bags to recycling markets.
  • Outside of the province, 20 collection sites in Alberta and 32 sites in Manitoba are looking to Saskatchewan for guidance on how to build on this success.

This program has fostered an amazing environment of entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan that is adding value to the system. For example, ag-equipment manufacturers are finding new ways to improve grain bag rollers and others are investigating how to incorporate used grain bags into recycled plastic products. Saskatchewan’s innovation is being adopted by other Prairie provinces and will be a model for others as they plan future programs.

Looking back, I’m amazed at how the network of people supporting and benefiting from grain bag recycling has grown since I witnessed the first grain bag being dropped off at the RM of Caledonia shop in 2010.

I am thankful for the partnerships that have helped (and will help) shape this made-in-Saskatchewan program as it continues to grow. Similar to the feeling of starting a new school year, I’m excited and happy to celebrate the achievements of the past and look forward to the future.

Tammy Shields is Cleanfarms’ Western Region Program Coordinator. She can be reached at 306-341-4460, shieldst@cleanfarms.ca