This week's federal government announcement on the ban of some single use plastics by 2021 has left many Canadian farmers wondering if single use plastics for agricultural products such as grain bags, pesticide and fertilizer jugs and seed bags are included.
Cleanfarms, the national organization that operates programs throughout the country to collect empty and used agricultural plastics for recycling and proper disposal says farm plastic products such as grain bags and packaging like jugs and bags are not on the list of single use plastics targeted for bans.
Cleanfarms General Manager Barry Friesen says that even though farm plastic waste will not be affected by bans the impact could see increases in regulations for agricultural products through government industry responsibility programs.
"For example, in Saskatchewan, grain bag recycling is now required under a provincially-regulated industry stewardship program," Friesen says. "To cover the cost of recycling the bags, which weigh hundreds of kilograms, an environmental handling fee is applied at purchase. Like the fee on the electronics that we've had for years, purchasers of grain bags, in this case Saskatchewan farmers, pay the handling fee when they buy or import grain bags."
The Saskatchewan grain bag handling fee, the first of its kind in the Canadian agricultural industry, has been in place since November 2018. Saskatchewanfarmers who use grain bags for storage will see it on sales receipts as they purchase grain bags for the coming harvest. The fee is 25 cents a kilogram which can amount to about $31 on a 9-foot by 200-foot grain bag that can cost several hundred dollars.
"The ban on single use plastics the government proposed this week largely focuses on residential packaging and products. But governments are also concerned about overall waste reduction and diversion to help reduce plastic litter, landfills and the carbon footprint of packaging of all types. This means that non-durable products and packaging that don't currently have programs or that have low recycling recovery rates may be regulated down the road," Friesen says.
Cleanfarms is a not-for-profit stewardship organization established 10 years ago to manage agricultural plastic and other wastes generated on farms across Canada. Cleanfarms has developed a series of successful programs to recover and recycle or properly dispose of plastic ag waste. It continually looks for opportunities to expand existing programs and create new ones that incorporate all agricultural single use plastics to help keep Canadian farm communities clean and environmentally healthy.