Farmers in the Haut-Saint-Laurent have demonstrated they are concerned for the environment and are ready to do their part in reducing waste agricultural plastics. Over 76 tonnes of plastic film, tarps, silage bags, twine, and netting were recovered from area farms during the first full year of a program initiated by Agri-RÉCUP and the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent, in collaboration with the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the UPA, and the participation of the municipalities of Très-Saint-Sacrement, Hinchinbrooke, and Saint-Anicet.
The pilot project for the recovery of agricultural plastics was first launched during the summer of 2021, with the objective of establishing a viable method for the collection of agricultural plastics that was both convenient for farmers and beneficial for the environment. Farmers can recycle their waste plastics by sorting and bagging them or compressing larger volumes into bales. Once sorted, the plastics are returned to local collection sites at the municipal garages in Hinchinbrooke, Saint-Anicet, or Très-Saint-Sacrement.
A total of 41,940 kilograms of waste agricultural plastic was recovered at the garage in Hinchinbrooke, while 20,382 kgs were returned to the garage in Saint-Anicet, and 13,943 kgs were collected in Très-Saint-Sacrement. These figures do not include eight compressed bales that have yet to be recovered from Très-Saint-Sacrement, or bales processed by producers with balers on the farm. Throughout the Haut-Saint-Laurent, there are 12 presses located on various farms. Each bale weighs approximately 450 kgs.
A pilot project to recover plastic tubing from maple syrup producers was also initiated in November 2022, where just under 14.4 tonnes of plastic was brought to the municipal garage in Franklin over five days.
Haut-Saint-Laurent farmers have also been able to return their used plastics to a recovery site at UNIAG in Sainte-Martine, and while this site was included in the initial pilot project with the MRC, AgriRÉCUP no longer includes materials returned there in its calculations.
When asked if the MRC is pleased with the results, Emilie Escafit, the waste management coordinator with the regional level of government, was emphatic in her enthusiasm for the project.
“This success is due to the involvement of the community of agricultural producers who returned their bags and bales to the collection sites,” she said. “The numbers speak for themselves,” she continued, suggesting it is clear that area farmers are taking the environment to heart. She points to results from a 2021 survey that showed a significant interest in recycling on the part of producers. Escafit says farmers are also “open to adapting certain agricultural plastic management practices, in order to reduce the contamination of these materials and to promote recycling.”
Escafit also praised the support of several municipalities and the willingness of the regional council of mayors to collaborate with AgriRÉCUP in the launch and promotion of the initiative. Agri-RÉCUP is now managing the program, which is set to be implemented province-wide. The MRC will continue to work with local producers, the UPA, AgriRÉCUP, and the municipalities to promote and support the program.
Producer Christopher Soesbergen, who sits as a director with the local UPA syndicate and was a member of the committee charged with setting up the pilot project, says the program makes a lot of sense. “We are throwing out the best quality plastic,” he says, noting he and a few other Dundee-based producers had been pushing the municipality to do something for a few years before the project got off the ground.
Soesbergen has a press at the farm and says preparing the plastic takes no more time than it did before. “We were wrapping it up all nicely to go to the road,” he laughs, suggesting he feels much better knowing the plastic is being recycled.