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April 20, 2023 Issues & Insights

Compactor presses proving useful to manage on-farm used silage and bale wrap plastics

Silage plastic, densified & prepared for transport using the manual compacting system. Photo Credit: Cleanfarms

Many beef and dairy producers in Alberta protect livestock feed by covering it with special plastic film widely used in agriculture today.

Whether it’s silage bags or tubes, large tarps that cover the top of the silage piles, or plastic stretch film used to wrap hay bales, once the plastic is removed and no longer useful, it becomes waste. Historically, the only disposal options for these materials were landfilling or piling them behind the farm gate in hopes of a future recycling program.

Fortunately, a recycling option is now available for farmers in several parts of the province.

Through a multi-year, federally-funded pilot program called ‘Building a Zero-Plastic-Waste Strategy for Agriculture’, Alberta farmers in select municipalities can recycle these used plastic materials by taking them to a local collection site or contacting their ag department.

One challenge with recycling these plastics is densifying the material, in this case, bale wrap and silage plastic, to improve efficiencies in transporting them to an end market. Generally, plastics that are collected loose take up a large amount of space and are time-consuming and difficult to handle with equipment. To quickly and inexpensively densify these plastics for storage, handling, and transport, Cleanfarms is testing the use of a manual compacting system.

The compactors in use were designed by Full Circle Plastics of Nobleford, Alberta. Cleanfarms initially commissioned 25 of them for Alberta and loaned several of them to beef and dairy farmers throughout the province. Through its ‘Here For Tomorrow’ partnership, Dairy Farmers of Canada has provided funding to supply some compactors to a group of dairy farmers around Silage plastic, densified & prepared for transport Olds, Alberta.

Each compactor takes approximately 22,000 square feet or about 300 kg of loose material at one time and compresses it into a 2’ x 4’ x 4’ bale. The bales are easy to store and transport to a local collection site and from there to a recycling facility in Alberta or the U.S.

“This compactor is a ‘made in Alberta’ solution to a problem all livestock producers face. So far, it demonstrates that managing our used silage plastic can be easy and it saves us time. Farmers love practical solutions and the compactor is a practical answer, plus it’s the right thing to do,” said Dan Deboer of Monarch Feeders.

How to access a manual compactor

Compactors are currently available year-round for public use during regular operating hours in several municipalities throughout Alberta (see the Cleanfarms Alberta map and contact details). Additional sites may be added as the pilot program expands.

Some municipalities (listed in the map above) also offer mobile compactors that can be delivered directly to farm. Those interested can contact the municipality or agricultural department to inquire if the mobile option is available.

Photo Credit: Cleanfarms

The Cleanfarms project to reduce ag plastic waste is funded in part by the Government of Canada through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP), a $50.3 million, five-year investment to help the agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive.

Recycling silage covers and bale wrap so they can be turned into new plastic products such as new agricultural film plastics, plastic bags, plastic dimensional lumber, or plastic ag fence posts, adds to farm operation sustainability, a goal which is a priority for many farm families.

View the compactor in action… Managing ag plastics: Compaction with a manual baler

Cleanfarms and the Alberta Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group (APRG) are publishing a series of information articles for Alberta farmers to develop a shared understanding of the importance of used agricultural plastics resource management.
A common theme throughout this monthly series is an exploration of how ag plastics, once used, can be recycled to reclaim the natural resources and the invested energy, returning them to the economy where they can be remanufactured into new products.
This practice is important to Alberta farmers because it contributes to agricultural sustainability that begins and ends on the farm, providing stewardship for future generations, as well as environmental health. Future articles will feature discussions on change management such as first sellers and manufacturers taking responsibility for used materials (extended producer responsibility), and explore practical recycling, including opportunities and challenges, for products such as grain bags, silage and bale wrap and baler twine that have real-time applications for farmers.
Cleanfarms is operating a three-year pilot project for grain bag and baler twine recycling in Alberta. The project is led by the multi-stakeholder APRG. Funds were granted by the Government of Alberta and are being administered by Alberta Beef Producers.
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About the Author

Cleanfarms and APRG
Cleanfarms is an agricultural industry stewardship organization that contributes to a healthier environment and a sustainable future for Canadian agriculture by developing and operating programs across Canada specifically for farmers that collect used ag plastics for recycling, as well as other ag-related used and unwanted materials for recycling or safe disposal. The Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group (APRG) was formed in 2017 and comprises more than 20 organizations representing agricultural producers, retailers, manufacturers, municipalities, non-profits and others. The group is committed to finding solutions to manage agricultural plastics. aprg.ca

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