BARRHEAD - The County of Barrhead will continue to operate its agricultural recycling program even though one of its original partners has decided they no longer want to be part of the project.
On Nov. 19, councillors accepted a recommendation of the Agricultural Services Board (ASB) and authorized the municipality to enter into an agricultural plastics recycling agreement with CleanFarms.
In 2019, the county signed on to a three-year recycling pilot program designed to help reduce the amount of agricultural plastic that ends up in area landfills by collecting and recycling grain bags and twine.
Initial funding for the program came from a grant from the NDP government, which pledged $1,000,000 to the Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group’s (APRG) pilot program to recycle grain bags and twine.
The Agricultural Plastics Recycling Group has 20 members, including the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), Alberta Barley, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, and Alberta Milk.
The project was carried out by CleanFarms, a national organization that collects pesticide containers across the country.
Barrhead was selected as one of the collection sites.
The original partnership was between the county, Westlock County, Woodlands County, the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River, the Westlock Regional Landfill and Neeralta Manufacturing.
Agricultural fieldman Kyle Meunier said under the arrangement, Westlock would collect the twine while Neeralta Manufacturing would collect the grain bags.
From October 2019 to September 2021, CleanFarms provincially has collected 1,377,145 kilograms of grain bags and twine, with 13,411 kilograms being from Barrhead.
The Barrhead collection site, Meunier said, with limited promotions and participation from the other partners, has received about 20,000 kilograms or 20 tonnes of grain bags.
However, recently Neeralta Manufacturing dissolved its relationship with CleanFarms. Therefore, if the county wants to continue to be part of the initiative, they will have to find a new partner, as he said they do not have access to a grain bag roller.
That is why the county, through the ASB, approached Highway 2 Conservation (H2C) to see what their thoughts were on the potential of buying a grain bag roller.
"Because they are expensive," Meunier said, adding that depending on the type, they could be upwards of $10,000.
H2C is an environmental stewardship group and is a partnership with Westlock County, Athabasca County and Thorhild County. The County of Barrhead joined in 2011 and became the managing partner in 2015.
How the program works is that after the county has accumulated a set number of rolls, they call CleanFarms to collect them.
"It is easy as that, and we get about $990 per truckload," he said. So it wouldn't take long for it to pay for itself ... and it is a very simple machine to operate."
Meunier added he would hate to see the program dissolve, noting that in 2004, Barrhead's ASB pushed for an agricultural plastic recycling program at the provincial ASB conference.
"We tried and tried and brought it up multiple times. So when CleanFarms' pilot program was announced, we thought, great, we are finally getting some traction on this," he said.
Meunier added if the county decides to continue with the project, H2C has committed to buying the grain bag roller, saying it is already in their budget.
Coun. Paul Properzi asked how heavy the rolls were and if any other equipment would be needed. He also asked about the possibility of collecting silage bags.
Meunier replied that most rolls are 400 to 500 pounds, but if the machine was being used on a farm as whatever model they purchased would be portable, most likely, they would have access to a tractor with forks.