What is it?
Agricultural plastics in Saskatchewan include: grain bags, twine, net wrap, silage plastic, seed bags, pesticide, and fertilizer containers. Use of this material has increased over the years as plastic provides a barrier against moisture, is flexible, and is easy to transport due to its lightweight nature
What is the issue?
Although these materials are important in helping farmers produce and store their crops, they can have negative impacts on the environment when not handled properly. Plastics are made of persistent chemical compounds which means they do not break down in the environment for a long time. This becomes a dilemma as these products build up into piles of waste that will not go away. Some landfills have banned the disposal of agricultural plastic like grain bags because they are so big and bulky. Burning the plastic is also detrimental as it has environmental and health consequences, like it produces dioxins, heavy metals, and furans. Dioxins and furans are known carcinogens and have proven negative effects on the immune, nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems of humans and animals. Additionally, pesticide containers, if not properly rinsed, may still contain toxic residues.
Where can it go?
Agricultural plastics are a valuable resource that can be reprocessed into new products. Check out our Waste Reduction Hub to find a drop-off location near you. Currently, Cleanfarms facilitates a number of programs to recycle these materials in Saskatchewan.
Grain Bags - Provincial regulations passed in August 2016 require sellers of grain bags to provide a recycling program. The Cleanfarms website lists about 40 drop off locations, program details and answers to frequently asked questions regarding grain bag collection, including information about the Environmental Handling Fee (EHF).
Pesticide / Fertilizer Containers- Cleanfarms runs a voluntary recycling program for empty agricultural pesticide, fertilizer, and seed treatment containers (including bulk). Farmers can drop-off their clean containers, free of charge, to numerous retail collection points across the province. In 2018, the program collected Close to 1.9 million containers in Saskatchewan. This amounts to over 704,000 kg of plastic that was diverted from landfills and burning barrels across the province.
A pilot program to collect seed, pesticide and inoculant bags is also taking place. They are generally being collected at retailers that participate in the pesticide container take back program (~390). Twine recycling has also been added as a new pilot program as part of the Building a Zero-Plastic-Waste Strategy for Agriculture Project. Saskatchewan growers that use twine can bring it back for recycling at more than 30 existing grain bag recycling collection sites. The pilot will run for a three year period.
What happens after?
Agricultural plastic containers are cleaned and converted into pellets that can be made into plastic bags or products like drainage tile and plastic lumber. Recycled grain bags are used to make new products such as plastic construction sheet products and industrial garbage bags. Check out Cleanfarms What Becomes What.
How can I reduce?
- Store plastic wrap indoors. This will keep it from degrading in the sunlight, allowing it to last longer.
- Buy only what will be totally used up on the farm - You can always go back for more.
- Consider permanent structures for storing grain, such as granaries.