Alberta ag plastics recycling program gains ground
Canadian PlasticsCanadian Plastics Packaging Recycling
The program has collected close to 2,270 tonnes of grain bag plastic and over 336 tonnes of used plastic baler twine so far.
A pilot program developed in Alberta in 2019 to recycle plastic baler twine used by Alberta farmers is catching on, its developers say.
Farmers in Alberta use about 2,000 tonnes of grain bags and approximately 2,200 tonnes of plastic baler twine annually. These plastic tools are essential in farming operations – grain bags to temporarily store harvested grains, and twine to bind crops for storage and transport. But managing these plastics after use has been challenging for many farmers.
That’s changing under a pilot program called “Alberta Ag Plastic. Recycle It!”
From the start of the “Recycle It!” pilot in October 2019 and continuing through December 2022, farmers have brought close to 2,270 tonnes of grain bag plastic and over 336 tonnes of used plastic baler twine to designated collection locations for recycling – the equivalent of 126 semi-trailers full of rolled up grain bags, lined up end to end for two kilometers. The twine collected for recycling equates to the amount that would be used to wrap 922,000 large square hay bales.
The pilot project is led by the multi-stakeholder Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group (APRG). Funds were granted for the pilot by the Government of Alberta and are administered by Alberta Beef Producers. The long-term goal is to expand the pilot into a permanent program.
“This time of year, I have my cows on bale grazing and most of the twine I take off my bales is clean and easy to recycle,” said beef producer and Chair of the Alberta Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group (APRG) Assar Grinde. “Putting it in a recycling bag rather than a garbage bag was an easy habit to form and I am glad there is a better place for it to go, rather than into a landfill.”
Cleanfarms, a non-profit industry stewardship organization, operates the Alberta pilot on behalf of APRG, and has contracted with 47 collection partners to establish a network of 147 individual collection locations – 45 that collect both grain bags and twine, one that collects grain bags only, and approximately 100 that collect twine only. Cleanfarms is opening new collection locations regularly to provide additional access for farmers.
Cleanfarms arranges for the collection and transportation of the ag plastics as the first step in the recycling process. Used grain bags go to one of two facilities in Alberta – one in Bashaw and the other near Bassano. Baler twine, meanwhile, goes to recycling facilities in the U.S.
Grain bag plastic is converted into plastic pellets which are shipped to manufacturers across Canada and the U.S., to be used to make new plastic items such as agricultural film plastics, plastic bags, composite dimensional lumber, and agricultural fence posts – or blended with virgin resin to manufacture products such as car parts, flowerpots, composite decking, and dimensional lumber. Also, research and development are underway to use these pellets in the manufacturing of new grain bags.
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