Farmers break ag plastic recycling record


Over the past 32 years, Cleanfarms has calculated the rolling three-year average recycling rate of agricultural pesticide and fertilizer containers that are 23 litres and smaller.

Cleanfarms has just calculated the 2020 recycling rate, which shows another major surge in recycling of these containers. In 2018, the rolling average rate was 64 per cent; in 2019 the rate was 71 per cent; and, in 2020 the rate was 76 per cent, setting an all-time record for recycling empty ag plastic jugs in Canada.

“Canadian farmers deserve huge credit for these unparalleled results,” says Barry Friesen, Cleanfarms executive director. “They are bringing back rinsed, empty containers in increasing numbers year over year, which means more of these ag plastic jugs are getting recycled into new products in a circular economy.”

The recycling rate measures the percentage of containers collected for recycling compared to the number of containers sold into the market in that year. The three-year rolling average recovery rate evens out the rate over three years, taking into consideration factors which could cause variations such as differing needs due to weather, says the organization.

In total, farmers returned more than 5.5 million pesticide and fertilizer jugs in 2020, and Cleanfarms says that when placed end-to-end, that number of containers would stretch from Montreal, Que., to Brandon, Man.

In addition to farmers recycling efforts, Cleanfarms attributes the increased recycling rate to the more than 1,200 ag retail and municipal operations across Canada that run collection sites, that work with farmers to get empty, rinsed containers back. Cleanfarms is also developing incentive programs, like offering free recycling collection bags that make it easier for farmers to collect, store, and transport their empty containers.

“For the last few years in our promotion and education materials we’ve been asking farmers to bring back 100% of their empty containers. We want to recycle every one of them and it looks like we’re getting closer to that goal,” Friesen says. “We know Canadian farmers are committed stewards of their land and that they want to be environmentally responsible when it comes to how they manage this plastic ag packaging on their farms. We are grateful that they are responding positively to these programs.”

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