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Manitoba to collaborate with Cleanfarms on recycled ag plastic project


December 17, 2020
By Top Crop Manager

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Cleanfarms’ plastics recycling project might have found a home in Manitoba. Their provincially funded pilot project, which collects and recycles plastic agricultural waste (such as grain bags and baler twine) is set to transition to a permanent, province-wide, industry-funded ag recycling program in 2021. Manitoba Conservation and Climate (MCC) has asked Cleanfarms to develop and consult on a stewardship transition plan.

Cleanfarms has developed a first draft of the plan, Manitoba Ag Plastic Plan, and is inviting farmers, companies that supply ag plastics to farmers, and other stakeholders to comment on it. Written comments on this version can be submitted until Jan. 12, 2021. They should be sent to Cleanfarms’ manager of stakeholder relations, Kim Timmer, at timmerk@cleanfarms.ca

Comments are encouraged from producer groups, industry and municipal associations, as well as Manitoba farmers.

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Cleanfarms developed the plan based on data collected in the Manitoba pilots and on best practices honed over years of running similar ag waste recycling programs across the Prairies. Part of the goal is to harmonize ag waste recycling programs in the Prairie provinces.

Once comments are received and processed, a second version of the plan will be submitted to MCC on Jan. 30, 2021. Cleanfarms hopes to receive final plan approval from the provincial government by the end of March so that it can begin transition to the industry-funded model in early spring.

Funding for the permanent program will be managed through an Environmental Handling Fee (EHF) collected by companies that supply farmers with grain bags and twine at the time these items are purchased.

“Grain bags and twine are valuable tools that farmers use to grow food and to operate their farms more efficiently. However, these materials can be difficult to manage effectively at end-of-life. The Cleanfarms stewardship program would see them recycled into new products, such as plastic bags,” noted Cleanfarms executive director, Barry Friesen.

Estimates suggest that approximately 1,400 tonnes of non-organic ag plastic waste are generated by Manitoba farms annually.

In 2019, Manitoba farmers returned 51 tonnes of ag plastic waste in the pilot program, up from 34 metric tonnes the year before.

“Studies have shown us that Manitoba farmers want recycling programs. We’re anticipating that, should a permanent program move ahead, we’ll see the number of recovered tonnes start to climb steadily. And that’s good for Manitoba’s sustainable agriculture sector and the environment,” Friesen said.