WHEREAS agricultural plastics and twine are recyclable materials generated by the agricultural industry and are often sent to municipal solid waste landfills for disposal or if not accepted at landfills, is being stockpiled or burned; and
WHEREAS diverting agricultural plastics and twine to recycling facilities will reduce the volume of non-biodegradable materials at landfills; and
WHEREAS the Substance Release Regulation prohibits the burning of plastics and the release of harmful toxins into the environment; and
WHEREAS the 2012 Agricultural Plastics Recycling Agricultural Producers Survey confirmed that there is a strong consensus among agricultural plastics users that it is important to be able to recycle their agricultural plastics;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Alberta Environment and Parks develop a recycling program to provide for the collection and recycling of agricultural plastics in Alberta.
The 2013 Alberta Agriculture Waste Characterization Study estimated the total annual agriculture plastic waste at between 6,600 and 14,000 tonnes. (Alberta Agricultural Waste Characterization Study – Final Report CleanFARMS Inc.)
While several regions and municipalities in Alberta have conducted a pilot program for the collection and recycling of agricultural plastics (grain bags and twine) no long term sustainable solution has been found to date. Through these pilot programs various technologies and strategies have been investigated and refined to a point where the recycling of agricultural plastics could move forward on a province wide basis.
The markets for clean recyclable agricultural plastics continues to mature, however they have not developed to a point where the recycling process is sustainable without a supporting program.
During discussions with municipalities that are working to develop an agricultural plastics recycling program the projects seems to have many challenges:
Land filling large bulky volumes of plastic make it hard to compact making filling the cell quicker.
Obtaining the agricultural plastic free of contaminants to the extent that recyclers will accept the material.
Compaction of the material in order to obtain sufficient tonnage to make the freight more economical.
Handling the material at solid waste receiving stations.
There are recyclers that will take the different classes of plastics there just needs to be a way of getting the product to them economically.
3-12F: Recycling Agriculture Plastics
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Provincial Government to develop recycle programs for the agriculture industry for the recycling of agricultural plastics.
DEVELOPMENTS: The then ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) and Environment and Sustainable Resource (ESRD) in 2012 scoped the issue of waste management in rural Alberta through a survey process that sampled agricultural producers and municipal waste authorities. The AAMDC met with the Minister of ARD in early 2013 who noted there is a lack in regional facilities which creates a challenge associated with high costs of hauling agriculture plastics long distances for recycling purposes.
The AAMDC and ARD engaged with CleanFARMS through their development of an Alberta Agricultural Waste Characterization Study, which was released in August 2013. While the study inventories and quantifies the plastic waste generated on Alberta farms, it does not directly address the need for or possibility of recycling programs to address this waste. Though the Government is making strides to better understand the challenges associated with recycling agricultural plastics, there has not been any efforts to establish a provincial recycling program for all agricultural plastics products to date. As such, this resolution is deemed Unsatisfactory and will continue to be monitored.
Agriculture and Forestry: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) has worked with Alberta Environment and Parks to scope and develop options to address the issue, beginning with the development of an education program (including a fact sheet) around the harmful effects of burning. However, it was concluded based on feedback from producers and other Alberta stakeholders that an education piece alone was not going to solve the issue.
AF contributed to a Waste Characterization Study completed by CleanFARMS. The results of the study suggest that agricultural plastic waste is less than one per cent of the total annual waste being sent to landfills in Alberta. This helps explain the Government of Alberta’s current lack of action to date on the issue.
AF continues to gather information about agricultural plastics, including a study on market options.
AF staff currently sit on a committee to develop policy options for agricultural plastic recycling. The committee consists of members from the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, the Alberta Recycling Management Authority, CleanFARMS, and the Recycling Council of Alberta. The committee’s first meeting was in December 2015.
Environment and Parks: Diverting waste from landfills is an important issue facing Albertans, and Alberta Environment and Parks (EP) commends municipalities for taking important steps to expand recycling programs.
Currently, EP is not considering a regulated agriculture recycling program. However, the ministry looks forward to hearing from municipalities on their challenges and successes with these types of programs as it engages with various stakeholders on managing material at end-of-life.
RMA believes that a coordinated, province-wide approach to end of life management for agriculture plastics is the most effective means of limiting the amount of agriculture plastics that end up in landfills. Currently, some rural municipalities have provided recycling options for this material, but due to its large size and limited recycling options, these programs are beyond the capacity of most municipalities.
RMA has made progress with Alberta Environment and Parks and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in emphasizing the need for an agriculture plastics program and anticipates that discussions will continue moving in a positive direction.
RMA has been collaborating with other municipal associations, agriculture industry partners, RMA members, and recycling organizations in Alberta to explore options used in other provinces as part of the Agriculture Plastics Recycling Group (APRG). This group has developed a white paper on agriculture plastics and is currently assessing options and formulating positions that will be communicated to the Government of Alberta. RMA will also continue to identify opportunities for alignment of recycling programs in other provinces.
Until a coordinated recycling program is developed, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met. RMA will continue to work with other stakeholders and advocate for the formation of a program to enable the recycling of agriculture plastics.