Saskatchewan farmers who purchase large plastic bags for grain storage will see a change when they buy bags after November 1. That's when Saskatchewan's new province-wide grain bag recycling program's Environment Handling Fee (EHF) becomes effective.
The non-refundable EHF of 25 cents per kilogram will be added to the price of the bag based on weight and size. On a bag that is approximately 125 kg, the EHF would start at about $31 and increase proportionally to the total weight of the plastic in the bag.
Most grain bag users won't be buying bags at this time of year but will see the EHF when they purchase bags for 2019 storage.
The calculation of the EHF is based on a six-year pilot recycling program initiated by the provincial government. The government-funded pilot was operated by Simply Agriculture Solutions. Over that time, more than 3,600 tonnes of grain bags were recovered for recycling.
In July 2016, the province created The Agricultural Packaging Product Waste Stewardship Regulation establishing a regulated recycling program for grain bags similar to Canadian stewardship programs for tires, electronics, paint and oil containers. Like those, the Saskatchewan grain bag recycling program transfers financial responsibility for proper end-of-life management to businesses that supply grain bags into the market. A farmer who imports grain bags from outside of the province also falls under the same obligation.
The purpose of the recycling program is to offer farmers a responsible option for returning these single-use, large, heavy bags for recycling. End markets in North America and Malaysia shred, wash and pelletize the plastic and sell it to manufacturers who make products such as plastic garbage bags.
The EHF will be used to cover the cost of collecting the bags at designated collection sites, transporting them to end markets and administration, after deducting end-market revenues.
Cleanfarms, a not-for-profit industry stewardship organization with extensive experience in recovering agricultural plastics across Canada began administering the program when it evolved from the pilot to a permanent program. With funding assistance for the 2018 program provided, in part, by Saskatchewan's Ministry of Agriculture through the federal-provincial Growing Forward 2 initiative, it has established more than 20 collection sites throughout the province where there is heavy grain bag use. It will add 15 collection locations in 2019.
"We know Saskatchewan farmers want to do the right thing for their land and communities, and that they're prepared to recycle their grain bags. Since the permanent program began, we've shipped more than 800 tonnes of grain bags to end markets with that much or more already collected and ready to be shipped out soon. That represents thousands of grain bags that will be recycled into new products as opposed to disintegrating on farm fields or buried in landfill," said Cleanfarms General Manager Barry Friesen.
Estimates suggest that 15,000 to 20,000 grain bags are used in Saskatchewan every year.