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Board given ag plastic pilot update

The Mountain View County agricultural service board (ASB) has been given an update on a proposed $750,000 provincial pilot project regarding agricultural plastics.
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The Mountain View County agricultural service board (ASB) has been given an update on a proposed $750,000 provincial pilot project regarding agricultural plastics.

The province announced the three-year pilot project during the recent Rural Municipalities of Alberta Association annual general meeting.

Al Kemmere is a county councillor, the president of the RMA, and the chair of the multi-stakeholder Alberta Plastics Recycling Group (APRG).

“We are continuing our efforts to bring forward recommendations for the management of agricultural plastics,” Kemmere said following the announcement of the pilot project. “We have now submitted the application with details on the pilot program and we hope to have the government’s formal approval within the next two months.

“As it now stands we will not look to build this as a three-year program for grain bags and twin with waste characterization and market studies to ensure we have accurate data about what materials are being generated and look for responsible management options for all agricultural plastics.

“Other details on the program will need to be finalized and can be shared once we have government approval.”

The APRG has approved terms of reference and nominated an executive committee to work on the project, he said.

“The APRG will act in an advisory role with the mandate to assist in the development of recommendations to manage agricultural plastics including promoting ag plastics recycling actions and programs that are sustainable and implementing the terms set out in the pilot program business plan,” he said.

“Alberta Beef has been elected as the program administrator to receive the funding from the government and the committee will determine the pilot operations and detail.”

The executive includes Tammy Schwass, executive director of the Agricultural Plastics Recycling Association (APRA).

She made a half-hour presentation to Mountain View County ASB during its recent regularly scheduled meeting in council chambers.

“We would be looking to start the pilot next fall (2019). We would be starting our research projects early next year. Our goal is to keep everyone informed,” said Schwass. “We want to work with the municipalities that are currently accepting materials and have them join into the project as well.

“We don’t yet know what is going to be approved (as part of the pilot project) but we are hoping within the next couple of months we will be able to share that information.

“Part of our plan is to go through some surveys and engagement sessions to help everyone understand what that will look like once it is rolled out in to a full-time program.”

It is not anticipated that there will be costs to municipalities or producers to take part in the pilot.

“For the pilot project we have applied so there will be no fees applied to the groups involved,” she said. “It will be a wholly government funded program so that means the municipalities will be fully compensated for their work in the program and ideally no cost to the producers.

“Moving into a permanent program there will likely be costs somewhere down the line; things don’t happen for free and there is a charge to handle the materials.

ASB member and county councillor Duncan Milne said he is pleased that the pilot program has been announced.

“We’ve been talking about this since I’ve been on ag service board,” said Milne. “Finally somebody must have turned on a light bulb or a switch somewhere in Edmonton.

“I do see some challenges if it doesn’t get passed before the election is called because there is a chance it could get lost for two or three years before this happens.

“I really don’t see the current government seeing this as a high priority. They’ve mentioned it but it’s not what is going to get them re-elected. I’m glad to see it come through.”

ASB chairman Brian Rodger called the pilot program “great news.”

The APRA has come out with a Problem Statement regarding agricultural plastics. It reads as follows:

“Growth and change in the agriculture industry has led to great use of agricultural plastics by agricultural producers to help manage their storage, improve efficiencies and improve cost effectiveness. While there are some local initiatives for some plastics, there is a lack of western Canadian or Alberta-wide option for environmentally safe end of life management for agricultural plastics. The lack of comprehensive end of live management for agricultural plastics will continue to have adverse impacts on the environment and human health.”

The Mountain View County ASB advises the county and the province on agriculture-related concerns and issues.