The hidden benefits to recycling your waste

Empty chemical containers stacked on a grain farm to be recycled
iStock/Edward Haylan

Recycling benefits the quality of life of countless living beings, but a new study sheds light on the hidden rewards for caring for our planet.

The Recycling Council of Alberta, Canada, have issued a study assessing the benefits that recycling has on the state, the study highlighted: “the environmental benefits of recycling in terms of avoided tonnes to landfill and the replacement of primary raw material with secondary recycling material in products are well established. However, the contribution the sector makes to the economy in terms of employment (direct, indirect and induced jobs), tax, and overall Gross Value Added (GVA), which is the contribution the sector makes to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is rarely considered, and to an even lesser extent calculated.”

According to the newly released study commissioned by the Recycling Council of Alberta, Cleanfarms’ recycling programme in Alberta for agricultural plastic waste benefits the province’s economic and employment sectors, including job creation, wages, provincial tax benefit, capital investment and overall contribution to Alberta’s Gross Domestic Product.

Cleanfarms is a non-profit, industry-funded stewardship organisation that manages the collection, recycling and safe disposal of certain agricultural plastics materials and old, unwanted pesticides and obsolete animal health products used on Canadian farms in food production. On behalf of members in the crop protection and animal health industries, Cleanfarms operates programs in Alberta that recover:

  • Empty pesticide and fertiliser jugs/containers for recycling (23L and under)
  • Empty non-deposit, bulk pesticide containers (23L and over) for recycling
  • Unwanted and obsolete agricultural pesticides and animal health products for secure, special disposal

The study, Quantifying the Economic Value of Alberta Recycling Programs, shows that Cleanfarms’ existing small container programme (23L and under) results in 19 direct jobs which contributes $2.4m (~€1.6m).

in gross value added and $1.1m in wages for collection, transportation and processing activities in the province. The longer-term value, however, comes from increasing the number of tonnes recovered for recycling.

The study estimates that as Cleanfarms recovery programmes expand, the impact of job growth increases, too. For every 1000 tonnes collected, 16 direct jobs are created that relate to recycling activities. Looking at broader impacts that include direct, indirect and induced employment, not only in Alberta but in other provinces where materials are processed, the impact of Cleanfarms’ programmes on employment is appreciable and increasing.

This fall, Cleanfarms, under contract with the Alberta Plastic Recycling Group, is launching a pilot programme in 20 locations to collect empty plastic grain bags and plastic twine in farm operations. Estimates suggest this pilot programme, projected over 10 years in this study, could generate nearly eight tonnes of recovered used ag-plastic resulting in more than a significant number of additional jobs.

Cleanfarms is best known in the agricultural community for its longest running small container (23L and under) recycling programme. Last year, Alberta farmers recycled 1.36 million containers.

The program has been operating in Alberta for the better part of 30 year and over those years, $30m has been directly invested in helping Alberta farms create sustainable, clean farm communities by managing their plastic waste and unwanted and obsolete pesticides and animal health medications.

The report was funded by Alberta Economic Development and Trade, Alberta Recycling Management Authority, Beverage Container Management Board and Cleanfarms.

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