Plastics have been used in several applications in Canadian agriculture for more than 20 years. Polypropylene twine and silage film of polyethylene are still common. Since 2001, the use of plastics has grown rapidly. Packaging of hay in individually wrapped bales or in long bale-bags allows farms to cut and leave feed in the field and feed on-demand, saving time and transportation costs. Grain bags are now used to store grain until ready for market. The unit costs to the farm operations are so much lower that this trend will continue. Plastics in agriculture are replacing the need for traditional buildings to store grain and feed. Without buildings there is less up-keep and this further reduces operational costs.
The increase in plastics use has also resulted in an increase in plastics wastes.
To understand how best to deal with this rapid increase in disposal of ag plastics at end of life, the Agricultural Plastics Working Group was formed and APRA has been and continues to be an active participant.
Beginning in 2010, Merlin Plastics and Crowfoot Plastics have been accepting select agricultural plastics and have processed more than 10 million pounds. For information on how your municipality can participate in this expanding program, contact Merlin Plastics.
In the summer of 2016, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry released their survey of municipalities conducted in 2015. The highlights from the survey are available below.
CleanFarms, in partnership with Alberta Agriculture & Rural Development (ARD) through Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial, territorial initiative, has also conducted research on the topic of Agricultural Plastics Recycling and in 2013 conducted a waste characterization study focused on non-durable, inorganic waste generation on Alberta farms.