November 8, 2017
Much of the material going to landfill has a market value. Given the opportunities that exist within the waste recovery industry, should we be burying that value for long?
The concept of reducing, reusing and recycling is as old as waste itself. And farmers, particularly older farmers, are some of Canada’s most vociferous recyclers. But it’s often not because they’ve adopted a newfound ‘religion’ in recycling to save the earth. It’s because it’s something they know is necessary to survive. In fact, it’s interesting that many urban dwellers have only recently latched onto recycling as something new, something invented today to save our environment for future generations. Farmers have been doing it for as long as farming has been around. It’s not so much that recycling is chic, it’s that farmers know inherently that recycling means savings.
My father, growing up on a farm in Barnes Crossing, Saskatchewan, was taught the value of goods from an early age. Nothing that could be used was ever wasted. And a recent summer visit to his home workshop is a testament to that statement. Virtually every tool had the markings of reuse, whether it be used binder twine holding together a particular tool, a workshop bench made of old barn boards or a table saw manufactured from an old metal sewing machine frame. Virtually everything was cobbled together, yet perfectly usable and put to use over the years to manufacture and repair two loving homes, countless pieces of furniture, picture frames, you name it.
Yet in today’s economy, we often forget about the value of materials. Paper, plastics, wood, metals and even wastewater can be turned into something useful. Harnessing the value of waste as a resource improves environmental outcomes and the economy, and benefits all Canadians.
Unregulated storage of waste, illegal dumping and open-air incineration are particularly problematic as they can lead to pollution and pose certain health risks. Recycling helps reduce the strain on the environment and the size of our landfills. When we recycle products, we save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other potentially harmful contaminants that can enter our soil, ground and surface water. It is estimated that a recycling rate of 30 per cent is almost equivalent to removing 30 million cars off the roads. This translates into cleaner air and healthier communities.
Recycling heavily relies on manual labour to collect and sort material at a processing facility, and requires additional personnel in sales, operations and logistics. A number of studies show there are four to five times more jobs in recycling than in disposing of waste. The recycling business sector is growing into an extremely promising industry – one that generates jobs and revenue, boosts productivity and economic growth.
Recycling and waste recovery help to stimulate the use of greener technologies as a way to further conserve energy and reduce pollution. The concept of alternative energy encompasses all those sources that do not consume fossil fuels, are widely available and environmentally friendly. Globally, the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal is on the rise with benefits poised to extend far beyond the needs of today.
Within the agricultural realm, Canada’s farmers are invested in reducing their environmental impact and they’ve certainly made substantial gains over the last decade. Recycling programs such as those run by Cleanfarms have developed as a result of strong industry demand for a solution that rapidly evolves the way things are done on the farm.
Across the country, farmers recycle many different kinds of agricultural waste. Everything from pesticide containers to twine, bale wrap, seed and grain bags. The material is cleaned, pelletized at a processing facility and transformed into a number of new products. These can include everything from farm drainage tile and horticultural trays to pallets, garbage bags, and more.
The environmental benefits of recycling can be expressed in many ways, including savings in landfill space, energy and natural resources. And while the pros and cons of recycling are sometimes heavily debated, there’s never an argument over whether recycling is worth the effort.
One thing is for sure: however we choose to participate in the recycling programs available in our community, the impact of our actions will be felt for generations to come. And I can personally attest to the value of recycling after viewing our latest family picture displayed on a picture frame made from old boards that were cut from a table saw that used to be a sewing machine.
For more information on how to better manage on-farm waste, including agricultural plastics, visit cleanfarms.ca