General Manager, Cleanfarms
With a decade of experience developing high-performing programs for the Canadian agricultural community that recover farm plastic packaging and other types of non-organic ag-waste for recycling or proper disposal, Cleanfarms is stepping up to take on one of its most ambitious years yet. It’s a feat made possible for the non-profit industry stewardship organization by the support and leadership of its members.
“Long before most governments in Canada moved to regulate brand owners to take financial and operational responsibility for their used products and packaging, the crop protection industry had stepped forward voluntarily,” says Cleanfarms General Manager Barry Friesen. “At the time, it was unprecedented in the Canadian stewardship arena — and it’s still leading-edge.”
The roots of packaging stewardship in agriculture stretch back to 1989, when the crop protection industry started a program to collect empty agricultural plastic jugs for recycling in Alberta. When it was clear the program needed to be expanded, the industry created Cleanfarms in 2010 to take it on. Now, it’s a national program. Approximately 126 million empty plastic jugs have been recycled into farm products like drainage tiles instead of being disposed in landfills.
Long before most governments in Canada moved to regulate brand owners to take financial and operational responsibility for their used products and packaging, the crop protection industry had stepped forward voluntarily.Barry Friesen, Cleanfarms General Manager
Constantly evolving, Cleanfarms operates collection programs for a broad range of farm ag-waste materials, including:
- Empty pesticide and fertilizer jugs for recycling;
- Empty large, non-deposit, bulk pesticide and fertilizer containers for recycling;
- Unwanted and obsolete pesticides and livestock/equine medications for secure disposal (this program is operated in cooperation with the Canadian Animal Health Institute);
- Seed and pesticide bags for proper disposal (currently operating in Eastern Canada, with pilot programs in the Prairies);
- Grain bags for recycling in Saskatchewan;
- Grain bags and twine for recycling (pilot project) in Alberta; and
- Grain bags, silage/bale wrap, and twine for recycling (pilot projects) in Manitoba and Quebec.
“What’s clear is that without the whole industry working with ag-retailers and farmers to manage ag waste, particularly plastic, toward a common goal of zero waste, the successes achieved by Cleanfarms wouldn’t have been realized,” says Friesen. “The next chapters in Cleanfarms’ operational development will be to address ag-waste recovery and recycling in the horticulture, beef, and dairy sectors, where the low-hanging fruit — silage wrap, twine, netting, and greenhouse plastics — will expand opportunities to address all agricultural waste in Canada.”
It’s an aggressive agenda but Cleanfarms and its industry members know that environmental sustainability and clean farm communities depend on it.