by Steve Brackenridge
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Reducing our environmental footprint is on every farmer’s agenda. We’re always looking for ways to improve water quality and preserve natural wildlife habitats as we continually adjust our farming practices to leave our soil and water in better shape for the next generation.
We understand it’s our responsibility to recycle and reduce plastic waste on our farms, for the health of our environment today, and for future generations of farmers. Right now, more than 3,500 tonnes of plastic agricultural waste are generated in Ontario each year from plastic waste, including plastic bale wraps and silage plastic. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recognizes the need to reduce plastic use on farm. We know we need to be part of the solution, and new innovations can help us get there. That’s why OFA is supporting a new research project to develop biodegradable bale wrap and twine. What could be better than utilizing Ontario-grown crops and converting them into an environmentally friendly product that is used every day on our farms?
This new, biodegradable plastic bale wrap is being developed at the University of Guelph’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre. Plastic twine and bale wrap used on farms has limited recycling options, often ending up in municipal landfills, and OFA is hoping this new product, and the technology used to develop it, will offer solutions to reduce on-farm plastic use. The trick is, any biodegradable or compostable bale twine, netting and films must be designed to withstand prolonged outside exposure, and be able to decompose or be edible when shredded into livestock feed. This new innovation is leveraging our local bio-economy, using Ontario-grown products to replace plastics, or otherwise non-compostable materials.
Plastic waste on farms in a major concern for farmers and OFA members want solutions to address this. OFA’s support for this research project is an example of our position on the need to develop an integrated waste management system in rural Ontario that incorporates diverting, reusing and recycling of plastics.
OFA highlighted the impact Ontario farmers can have on the overall reduction of plastics in our response this spring to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks discussion paper on reducing litter and waste. Included in the submission was the need for research projects like the biodegradable plastic wrap. Agriculture has an opportunity to create our own solutions to reduce waste and plastics, and OFA is proud to support such a progressive initiative.
OFA supports the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre’s research that offers innovative solutions to environmental problems like plastics and waste. Support for projects and programs like this will enable our industry to find innovative solutions to a more environmentally friendly approach to reducing plastics and waste, and support our own industry by strengthening our bioeconomy.