On June 24, the Cheadle Lions Club and 4-H Alberta partnered with Wheatland County to bring the first grain bag roundup to the county. Grain bags were collected at the county yard to later be shipped off to the Green Acre’s Hutterite Colony where they start a recycling process with the bags.
“One of those bags makes over 10,000 garbage bags, after it’s recycled” said Marlene Risdon with the Cheadle Lions.
Each grain bag weighs anywhere from 330 pounds to 400 plus pounds and all of it is 100 per cent recyclable. The three popular routes for disposing of the bags have been to bury them on farms, burn them or haul them to the landfill.
At the Green Acre Hutterite Colony, the plastic is ripped and shredded, and from there it goes into the washers where it is further refined. The heavier material, rocks and grains, sink to the bottom and the plastic will float to the top.
The shredded, cleaned plastic is then made into round little black pellets, which will eventually be turned into garbage bags. While the process begins at the Green Acre Colony, the final product is made at the Clearview Colony, also within Wheatland County.
“We’re really excited about this. Our Lions Club and the 4-H Club, we’re not involved in this (the garbage bags themselves) but perhaps the local sport teams or schools, maybe they want to sell these for fundraisers,” said Sonny Warrack, with the Cheadle Lions Club.
“They would be selling a locally made product from a locally recycled waste, so we think that makes good sense. We feel there’s probably close to 500 of these bags in our county and that’s roughly 200,000 lbs of plastic… so that’s a potential of a half a million garbage bags if my math is right.”
“The Cheadle Lions Club is really supportive of the community and small groups like the 4-H clubs, and they’ve got the food grains project going too. Cheadle is super for that, they’ve got a real good group,” said Don Vandervelde, Wheatland County Councillor.
The project began in 2005 when an outfit in Calgary, Specialty Plastic, approached the Green Acres Colony to see if they wanted to buy the business. The Colony jumped on board and opened Crowfoot Plastic. After about a month they received a call to see if they also wanted to go into pop container destruction for Pepsi and Coca Cola. The Colony eventually found they didn’t have enough help to do the whole process, so Green Acres sold the making of the bags to the Clearview Colony.
“Grain bags right now, unless it will pick up, we’re running something like four days a month,” said Henry Hofer, with Green Acres Colony and an employee at Crowfoot Plastic.
Using grain bags has been a growing thing as farm sizes have grown.
It’s more cost effiecient to use the bags because it’s cheap storage, said Warrack. It costs approximately .6 cents to .8 cents a bushel to buy a bag and store the grain until the farmer can get it to the market. To build a bin that size, farmers would be looking at $2 a bushel.
The other motivation to use the bags is efficiency at harvest time because the truck can be parked, farmers can fill the grain bags with combines if they want to, but, most farms have grain wagons which work well, said Warrack.
“We do have a lot of farmers involved in our club and we can just see that this is a proactive move to do something positive with these grain bags. We just wanted to be involved with that and get the process going,” said Warrack.
The way the grain bags are rolled up is very important. They must be rolled tightly and no more than 3 ½ to 4 feet wide, and the more dense the better. They should be rolled with a machine. Not many farmers will have a machine that can roll the bags to the dimensions Clearview would like.
Leslie Storch with Greenslades Northern Welding was at the grain bag round up promoting the ‘Poor Boy bag roller.’ The Poor Boy can be pulled with a quad, truck or car and will assist with getting the bags the dimensions the Colony would like. More information can be found at www.greenslades.ca.
Wayne McKinnon with Kenwynn Farms Ltd brought in approximately three years worth of grain bags to the round up.
“It’s good. Making use of a product that would otherwise sit there and do nothing, keeping it out of the landfills,” said McKinnon.
Wheatland County loaned the use of a front-end loader and tractor, an operator, the yard and the facility.
“I think it’s great. It’s been a long time coming. These grain bags have been in existence for a while and there hasn’t been a real good means for farmers being able to get rid of them,” said Russel Muenchrath, Agricultural Fieldman for Wheatland County.
“I think this is the first step, getting the farmers used to what is required as far as the tightness and the rolling and stuff like that. Then from our standpoint, I’ll be bringing it back to our councillors to discuss what else the municipality can do to assist with this.”
This year the Wheatland County yard was chosen as the pilot area because of its proximity to the plant. There will be another grain bag round up next year, though if it will be at the county yard again or not is still to be determined.