Building a Zero-Plastic Waste Strategy for Agriculture
Developing and improving pilot program logistics
Cleanfarms' Building a Zero-Plastic Waste Strategy for Agriculture is a multi-year project aimed at increasing agricultural plastics’ (ag plastics) recycling capacity, entering the second year of pilot operations. This newsletter will keep you up to date on developments with the project and what these developments may mean for you. 
This issue focuses on what we've learned by developing program logistics for the pilots and spotlights the people who are facilitating these programs effectively and efficiently. We also want to remind participants to share feedback about nearby Cleanfarms pilot programs. You can reply to this email or send your questions, comments and ideas to the project coordinator, Carly Fraser, at Pilots are all about finding out what works and what doesn't. The best way to do this is to bring the right conditions and the right people together.
What we’ve learned
Choosing the right location

When it comes to location, we need to consider the potential volumes that may be available for collection, available contractors, the potential for new contractors to get involved and the distance to processors/end markets. 

Next, we look at ways to ensure that information is flowing, and this is where farming communities excel. There are typically networks in place that allow information and lessons learned to move from farm to farm, and these efforts to share new information are always valuable. 
Bringing the right players together

For a pilot to be successful, different players need to work together to identify and bridge any gaps. This includes transportation contractors and processors who can take on challenging materials, site attendants tasked with overseeing the collection of materials & quality, and the farmers we rely on to take time out of their busy days to cooperate with potentially new requirements. These people are the engines that keep pilots running.
Site attendants share promotional tools and provide valuable feedback on pilot operations
Collaboration, patience and a willingness to work outside the box are critical, especially at the onset. For example, sometimes, there are needs for longer than average storage periods at collection sites or processors. A contractor may need to adjust the equipment they use to collect and transfer materials because of wide variations in seasonal accumulation or if a specific area suddenly attracts new participation. Cleanfarms may also ask farmers to test different-sized collection bags or compactor models to find the right fit.

During the pilot phase, we need people who can help by experimenting or investing more time than usual to navigate challenges as they arise. This helps to broaden our understanding of opportunities and barriers and to promote success.
Developing best management practices

When it comes to ag plastics, the focus is on developing procedures that ensure the plastic can be recycled. Collection site attendants, farmers and transportation and processing contractors all take part in helping to establish best practices that ensure the pilots' safety, efficiency and effectiveness. 
Thanks to input from all these people, we've been able to develop and tweak tools and techniques. For example, we've learned that baling silage plastic and bale wrap on farms is preferred over a bag-based system in almost all regions. These materials are used in such large volumes and over multiple feeding seasons that bags can be cumbersome and difficult to add to a daily farm routine. A compactor is relatively easy to use, more convenient and minimizes space requirements, making it easier to transport the plastic. We've further explored how to do this efficiently via a shared or portable compactor system that has the potential to increase farmer access and convenience.
Pilots are trying out new ways to share compactors within farming communities
Communications approach 

At Cleanfarms, our goal is to communicate about the pilots in a way that drives program awareness, inspires commitment and shares learnings. Cleanfarms provides promotional tools to site attendants, who are often the 'boots on the ground,' so they can share them with farmers and keep the community up to date with advancements and challenges. We appreciate that these same attendants are keen to share their learnings and feed into initiatives like this newsletter. 

Recycling ag plastics in all regions presents similar challenges: access to workforce, contamination, compaction for efficiency, and distance to collection sites. Connecting key stakeholders to share wins and losses is essential to making sure the pilots transition to long-term projects.  
Stay tuned for our next newsletter to keep up with the pilots, and click below to learn more about the project's other components.
This project 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.