Manitoba is looking to recycle more agricultural plastics.
On May 26, the province announced the launch of an agri-plastics stewardship program targeting grain bags and bale twine, to be managed by agricultural recycling organization Cleanfarms.
“What this means, really, is that farmers have access to a reliable program and one that’s going to be available year over year to recycle their grain bags and their baler twine,” Kim Timmer, manager of stakeholder relations with Cleanfarms, said.
Efforts are underway to move agri-plastic recycling to permanent, but industry-funded, programs, like the ones that levy an environmental handling fee for tires.
The program builds on existing pilots, which have been in operation in Manitoba for the last eight years. Another, permanent program, has run in Saskatchewan since 2018.
“What we know is that farmers have an appetite for recycling this material,” Timmer said.
Last year, Cleanfarms programs in Manitoba collected 38.4 tonnes of grain bags, twine, and bale and silage wrap, according to the organization’s 2020 annual report.
The May announcement makes Manitoba the second province to introduce a provincially regulated agri-plastics stewardship program, behind Saskatchewan, and the first to expand the list of applicable materials. The Saskatchewan program targets only grain bags.
The announcement marks the first phase of the Manitoba Ag Plastics Plan (MAPP), approved by the province this spring. Starting in 2018, the province requested that Cleanfarms start the process of evaluating how the previous government-funded pilots could turn into a permanent, industry-funded, program.
Initial feedback suggested farmer interest in a recycling program for not only bale twine and grain bags, but also products like silage tarp, bale wrap and netting. Grain bags and baler twine, however, have markets available, Cleanfarms noted in a plan approved by the province this spring.
“The agricultural sector understands the importance of respecting the environment as well as any industry and we expect this program will make a significant difference,” Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen said. “Reducing the amount of plastic destined for our landfills is critical and we are confident that producers will support this effort.”
The provincial program will take advantage of the initial collection network set out by the pilot, according to Timmer. The next steps, she added, will be increasing awareness and uptake.
“Now, really, we get to plan for the long term,” she said.
Cleanfarms expects to operate 35 collection sites across the province under the new program. There will be no fee at collection sites.
Farmers will be asked to prepare materials prior to drop-off, Cleanfarms has said. Grain bags should be tightly rolled and tied with twine. For bale twine, farmers will be required to shake free debris and place twine in plastic collection bags. The farmer will also be responsible for temporary storage, Timmer said.
“The focus is on making sure it’s clean for recycling, and then we will help ship it to recycling markets,” she said. “The plastic then gets reused into new items like plastic bags, new plastic materials, whether it’s flower pots or roofing material.”
Funded at the cash register
Industry will be shouldering the cost of the program. Funding will be modelled on existing stewardship programs (such as those for tires), with environmental handling fees when products are purchased.
The funding model is a “standard approach for almost any recycling program, whether it’s electronics, oil or tires,” Timmer said.
Producers can expect an environmental handling fee of about 25 cents a kilogram for grain bags and 33 cents a kilogram for twine (or about $2.56 per 28,000-foot bale of twine).
“We’ll be working out all of those details in the coming months as we work with industry and stewards who are responsible for financing this program and really, it’s about putting in place that environmental handling fee,” Timmer said.
Fees are scheduled to take effect December 2021.