On February 2010, the commitment to environmental stewardship by Canada’s plant science industry was highlighted with the launch of CleanFARMS™ Inc. CleanFARMS stepped out from under the CropLife Canada umbrella to re-launch the highly successful empty container recycling and obsolete product collection programs as an independent, not-for-profit organization.
The reason for the move is simple: A changing regulatory climate coupled with the public’s desire for industry responsibility requires all industries to address stewardship. For CropLife Canada, that meant making its well established success public.
But the new direction means even more.
CleanFARMS is encouraging higher rates of recycling by bringing in new members and stakeholders that may not have participated in container recycling in the past. And, CleanFARMS is looking toward building upon these programs by ensuring that all agricultural waste is effectively and responsibly managed, which will mean managing additional stewardship programs in the future.
Up to now, the company has operated two separate programs: Empty Pesticide Container Recycling and Obsolete Pesticide Collection.
On a national basis, the empty container management program has collected and recycled over 82 million containers. Its national recovery rates hover around 61 per cent – remarkable for a voluntary program. Still, the organization hopes to see this number jump even higher under its new identity. With commitment by industry, farmers and other stakeholders, it’s aiming for an 80 per cent return rate.
While the program will no longer be run by CropLife Canada, CleanFARMS shares the same core values, including a commitment to safety, innovation, and sustainability.
Pesticide container recycling
The Empty Pesticide Container Recycling Program encourages farmers, horticultural operations and golf courses that use commercial pesticides to return all empty commercial pesticide containers less than 23 litres in size. The containers can be taken to any one of over 1,150 designated sites across Canada. In seven of the nine provinces where the program operates, those designated locations are dealers. In Manitoba and Alberta, locations are regional management sites operated by local municipalities. CleanFARMS contractors collect the containers and shred them to the appropriate size. The plastic shreds are sent to various customers who manufacture them into various products, the most common being farm drainage tile. There is no cost to the farmer or to the collection sites.
For the larger containers, it’s the responsibility of the manufacturer to manage their return and shredding. Once shredded, they must either be safely disposed or be given back to CleanFARMS to be safely recycled.
Because of the nature of the material processed, strict health, safety and environmental procedures must be followed by all contractors and processors. Empty containers are tested for cleanliness, and plastic shreds undergo testing to ensure that no product residue remains. Even the end product is extensively tested for residual material. End uses for the products are restricted so that only very specific products can be made from the containers.
To the user of the pesticide products, the request is simple: Rinse, Remove, Return. Containers must be either triple-rinsed or pressure-rinsed and caps and booklets removed before they’re returned to ensure recyclability of the containers. Users returning containers have over 1,150 locations across Canada to choose from. They can also visit the website www.cleanfarms.ca to find a location nearest to them.
Over the next few years, CleanFARMS will look for end-of-life solutions to deal with all the additional materials associated with these containers such as caps, booklets, corrugated shipping cartons and any other materials associated with the containers.
The second program CleanFARMS operates is called the Obsolete Pesticide Collection Campaign. Launched in 1998, this program gives users a safe way to dispose of obsolete or unwanted products, ensuring no chemicals are released back into the environment.
Since 1998 more than 1.3 million kilograms of unwanted and obsolete product have been disposed of safely. In fact, the program received the Alberta Premier’s Award of Excellence in 2003.
As mentioned, CleanFARMS is positioned to manage other on-farm wastes. In 2009, working in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Canadian Animal Health Institute and other stakeholders, CleanFARMS collected obsolete pesticides, obsolete on-farm pharmaceuticals and used sharps during its collection program. The future of this type of partnership will continue to be explored.
In the prairies, CleanFARMS has worked with the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council and the Recycling Council of Alberta to identify solutions to agricultural film waste. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment has recently partnered with the organization to scope out the agricultural film market with the view to identify appropriate end-of-life solutions for these products. It is expected that other provinces will also be interested in partnering on this work.
New stewardship legislation in Manitoba (Manitoba’s Packaging and Printed Paper Stewardship Regulation) now requires manufacturers or first importers of these products to effectively manage their packaging waste. Fortunately, CleanFARMS has a ready-made solution for its stewards and has submitted an Industry Stewardship Plan to Manitoba Conservation to cover its member’s obligations under this regulation.
It’s expected that other provinces may follow suit. So, rather than having to address these stewardship schemes in a piecemeal fashion, CleanFARMS has asked Health Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency to develop national requirements that require every registrant of pesticides to have a container management program. By building on CleanFARMS success, government and the agriculture industry can achieve easy wins for the environment.
Barry Friesen, P.Eng. is General Manager of CleanFARMS(tm) Inc. Barry can be reached at friesenb@cleanFARMS.ca