Agri-retailers are crucial to a national network of safe site collection and disposal

CleanFARMS manages the responsible disposal of potentially hazardous agricultural substances by forging strong ties with a network of Canadian agri-retailers. Those retailers, in turn, encourage producers to support sustainable agriculture practices.

Barry Friesen, general manager of the not-for-profit organization, has overseen the obsolete pesticide collection program since CleanFARMS took it over in 2010. The program, offered at various locations across Canada since 1998, has facilitated the collection and disposal of more than two million kilograms of obsolete pesticides. In 2013, obsolete livestock medications were added to the program.

“We offer the program in each province at least once every three years,” says Friesen. “Farmers can return their obsolete materials at a designated collection site at no charge during the collection period. The products are then transported to a high temperature incineration facility where they are safely disposed of.”

Planning Programs

The obsolete pesticide and livestock medication program is only offered every few years, due to critical requirements that must be taken into consideration. “It’s very expensive to manage because we have to hire licensed hazardous waste companies that will do the collections,” says Friesen. “Materials have to be collected in a certain way, have to go into a special containment and must be handled by licensed professionals.”

“We have to start early,” he says. “We identify the dates we want to operate per province, usually in early spring. Then we start our ‘Save the date’ advertising campaign and get that out to all of the agri-retailers.”

Planning for these programs requires mapping where the heaviest ag concentrations are, and identifying locations that are reasonably accessible to farmers – ideally within a 50 to 75 kilometre drive. “Then we hone in on agri-retailers within a given location,” says Friesen. “Unfortunately we can’t be everywhere, but we do welcome their ideas and suggestions for participating at an appropriate level.”

After high-use zones have been pinpointed, discussions with site hosts can begin. Says Friesen, “That’s when we start the planning of specific sites and start our discussions with agri-retailers. The program does take some space, and it is a commitment for any agri-retailer that is part of the program collection.”

Agri-Retailers’ Engagement Essential

“We try not to take away from agri-retailers’ normal operations, and we’re very appreciative of their participation. The reality is, there is some inconvenience,” says Friesen. “We are in their space, but we try to do as much as we can to alleviate the burden.”

Edan Bullerwell, operations manager at the Cargill site in Rosetown, Sask., found the collection process fairly straightforward. “CleanFARMS brings all their own people and equipment,” he says. “They just have to follow Cargill’s safety rules and practices but they’ve worked with us before so there are no issues there. We supply a forklift operator who unloads the stuff off the back of a producer’s vehicle. There’s no fuss for us from our end.”

Bullerwell saw a great turnout last October, and found the program beneficial for those involved. “There was way more turnout than we thought we were going to have. Not just Cargill customers, but also customers from other retailers.”

Benefits for All Involved

Residual benefits accrue for agriretailers who align with CleanFARMS’ sustainability programs. “The good thing is that there are customers that are coming in, and maybe some aren’t necessarily their customers today, but might become customers tomorrow because of what’s happening,” says Friesen. “It’s meant to be a noncompetitive program; we want farmers to participate regardless of where they normally purchase product.”

Friesen says the organization established the program as part of its overall commitment to sustainable agriculture. The sole purpose of all the CleanFARMS programs is to help farmers dispose of the waste generated by their operations in an environmentally responsible way.

He recognizes that the program’s success relies on everyone doing their part. “We’ve had great participation from farmers over the years, and we’re incredibly appreciative of the support agri-retailers have given us for all the CleanFARMS programs.”

In addition to the obsolete pesticides and livestock medications collection, CleanFARMS also offers permanent programs such as container recycling and seed and pesticide bag collection. They depend on a strong relationship with agri-retailers to fulfill their diverse programs. “We currently have one thousand collection locations across Canada with seven of the nine provinces operated at agri-retail locations,” says Friesen. “In Alberta and Manitoba, we operate at municipal locations.”

CleanFARMS also values its relationship with CAAR, and the additional exposure the association provides. “We work with CAAR and let them know about our programming, and they, in turn, spread the word about CleanFARMS in different publications,” says Friesen. “It continually evolves as programming and needs arise.”

The more the farmers and agri-retailers participate in this, the more they should all be proud of the fact they’re contributing to sustainable agriculture. - Barry Friesen

Friesen is particularly proud that this is a program that the agricultural industry has spear-headed. “Many years ago, we were recycling before recycling was a popular concept by doing responsible end-use,” he says. “So every time I can, I point out that not only do we have a model that works, but we don’t need excessive bureaucracy to do it. The more the farmers and agri-retailers participate in this, the more they should all be proud of the fact they’re contributing to sustainable agriculture.”

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