District of Kent farmers brought truckloads of used plastic to the Schwichtenburg farm Oct. 26 for pickup by Kent Agricultural Plastics Recycling, a grassroots, farmer-initiated organization that collects and distributes used plastics for recycling. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Kent farmers continue to take initiative on plastics recycling

Hope province will step up to help with agricultural recycling program

If there’s one thing Fraser Valley farmers know for certain, it’s how to work together.

And that’s exactly what District of Kent farmers have done for the last four years in order to recycle thousands of pounds of plastics waste.

It all started, or rather, picked up, where a Fraser Valley Regional District and District of Kent pilot project left off.

The project set up local farms with one-ton bags where farmers could store plastics and deliver them a few times a year.

Once the project ended, a new committee formed to keep the project going. Kent Agricultural Plastics Recycling, run by director Dave Hastie, has organized regular plastic pickups three to four times a year for over three years. Kent farmers come to the Schwichtenberg farm to drop off their plastics, usually filling two huge shipping containers of recyclable material, sometimes totaling more than 20,000 lbs.

Related: Agassiz farmers dig into pockets to recycle plastics

The system has worked well, but Hastie hopes the work can be picked up by the province as a stewardship program. He says Fraser Valley farmers, and the province in general, need a responsible, sustainable solution for recycling agricultural plastics.

“We have a good model here. Farmers love it. They love participating, they feel good about recycling,” said Hastie.

“If the farmer’s didn’t do what they do now, the plastics would end up in landfills,” he added. “I was hoping when I got involved that it would get picked up….but I am reluctant to give it up now.”

A provincially-regulated program might require an environmental fee to be added to agricultural plastics purchases, said Hastie, but it would be well worth the solution it provided.

Plastic is used frequently on Kent farms mainly as silage or hay wrap, as silo covers or in baler twine. It’s a cheap, easy and accessible material for farmers to use, but Hastie says more thought needs to go into the entire life cycle of the material – from first use to disposal.

“The only reason [farmers use] this plastic is because it really makes their process a lot more convenient,” he said. “Somebody came up with the invention of this bale wrapper but they never thought it through on the other end.”

That plastic creates a great deal of waste. Hastie estimates he picks up more than 75,000 lbs each year.

Right now, the plastic is transported to Blue Planet Recycling, a depot in Langley that recycles the plastic before selling it overseas to be processed into usable pellets for items like patio furniture, gardening supplies and house siding, to name a few.

A Cleanfarms study in 2012 found that dairy farms, along with beef, greenhouse and nursery farms, generate significantly more packaging waste than others. In total, an estimated 5,500 tonnes of non-organic waste is generated on BC farms each year, and about two thirds of that waste is plastic.

In an email, Shane Hedderson, the Western region business manager for Cleanfarms, said an effective program for waste agricultural plastics “would involve an extended producer responsibility model, where the manufacturers and/or sellers of the products fund the program.”

That’s because in most cases, Hedderson says the collection and consolidation of material is too expensive for municipalities to manage on their own – plus a lack of municipal infrastructure like baling and collection equipment.

Related: The goat who ate Christmas

Looking east

Agricultural recycling programs aren’t a new concept in Canada, but for the most part they rely on grassroots organizations and community members to store, collect and transport the material, which is no easy feat when handling such high volumes of recyclables.

Last year in Alberta, a group of environment and agriculture organizations created a policy framework addressing the need for a farm recycling program and presented it to their provincial government. And in Saskatchewan, studies and projects addressing farm plastics waste are underway.

Kent-Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness attended a plastics pickup at the Schwichtenburg property on Oct. 26. He said he has written to Recycle BC (formerly Multi-Material BC) asking them to look into including agricultural plastics as part of their work.

But for now, Kent farmers will continue to carry the costs of hosting, collecting and transporting their plastics. As well as lobbying the government for support in what they see as reducing the footprint of the farming industry.

“It’s part of the big picture, and they try to brush it off but it isn’t small, its big,” said Hastie.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Kent Agricultural Plastics Recycling collects two containers (pictured) of plastics about three to four times a year from farmers in the Agassiz area. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Just Posted

German-born British Columbian warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Agassiz teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

AESS students say they had the experience of a life time

WATCH: Brother of missing Hope woman makes emotional appeal for more media attention

Next search for Shawnee Inyallie Nov. 18 along Highway 1 towards Boston Bar

Gas price drop expected to hit Fraser Valley today

Analyst says to take advantage, warns slight increase may follow

Players Guild challenges Chilliwack residents to solve classic Agatha Christie whodunit mystery

The Chilliwack Players Guild is performing Murder on the Nile from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read