Reducing on-farm plastics – Canadian government boosts R&D funding

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The drive towards sustainable climate-smart agriculture in Canada gained further traction today with the allocation of a further CA$4.5 million in funding for five projects already working towards improved plastic waste management, on-farm sustainability and advanced bioplastics research.

This new funding, announced under Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC), builds on previous ISC funding of CA$150,000 allocated to each of the same five projects in August 2019.

Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, said “Today’s funding will support farmers looking for ways to better manage their plastic waste, and help advance the necessary work to turn crop residues and other agricultural by-products into renewable energy. This is a win-win for our hardworking farmers, the environment and Canada’s bioeconomy.”

What are the five projects?

1. Recycling plastic waste

Cleanfarms is a non-profit environmental stewardship organisation which works with members, agencies and the Canadian government to develop strategies for managing an estimated 60,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated on Canadian farms every year. In 2020 more than 5.2 million empty pesticide and fertiliser containers were collected through a Cleanfarms program, and nearly 300,000 empty seed and pesticide bags returned. Cleanfarms will receive up to CA$1.1 million to increase farmer access to recycling programs and explore ways to deliver long-term, permanent programs that will help Canadian farmers continue to improve the sustainability of their operations.

2. Turning poultry feathers into organic bioplastic

Following its 2019 grant of CA$150,000, EcoEnviro Labs Inc. will receive up to CA$1 million more through ISC to advance testing of its new organic bioplastic mulch made from poultry feathers. This could serve as a lower-waste, fully biodegradable and compostable way to produce mulch needed in Canada’s agriculture sector.

3. Biodegradable mulch film and seed trays

Established in 2009, TerraVerdae Bioworks Inc. is a leading innovative biopolymer and bioplastics company which develops sustainable and biodegradable polymers, plastics and products from renewable carbon sources, including waste. The company will receive up to CA$1 million through the Agricultural Clean Technology Program to develop a new generation of biodegradable bioplastic film and injection moulded products that target agriculture applications such as mulch film and seed trays. The project intends to displace conventional petroleum-based agricultural plastics. In April 2020 the company also received CA$4.5 million from Alberta Innovates, Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Growth Program (CGP) to expand its product development facilities in Edmonton.

4. Sustainable non-wood pulps to displace plastic and Styrofoam packaging

Red Leaf Pulp Ltd. will receive up to CA$495,000 through the Agricultural Clean Technology Program to support research and product trials for a straw pulp bio-polymer for use within the wood and pulp industry, and in the production of low carbon fuels and renewable natural gas. The project intends to displace plastic and Styrofoam packaging by producing sustainable non-wood pulps.

5. Biodegradable fresh produce packaging

Titan Clean Energy Projects Corp. is known for its four carbon and activated charcoal products (biochar). The company was granted CA$150,000 in 2019 to test a food-grade quality bioplastic, ideal for fruit or prepared vegetable packaging that biodegrades more quickly and will result in less landfill. Through ISC, Titan will receive up to an additional CA$1 million for the project.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry added “Our Government wants to support entrepreneurs and small businesses whose ideas address some of today’s biggest challenges. By investing in innovative and sustainable work in bioplastics testing from small businesses like EcoEnviro Labs Inc. and Titan Clean Energy Projects Corp., our government contributes to the economy, and supports Canadian farmers as well as Canada’s fight against global warming.

Plastics are a valuable tool in modern farming operations enabling them to work efficiently and productively. But when farmers no longer have a use for these materials, they want more opportunities to manage them in an environmentally responsible manner.” said Barry Friesen, Executive Director, Cleanfarms. “With this support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Cleanfarms can develop practical on-the-ground recycling solutions for agricultural materials like bale wrap, grain bags and twine. New options for managing materials like this help farmers operate sustainably and contribute to a healthier environment and a circular economy for plastics.”

2 full loads of empty grain bags heading off to be recycled

2 full loads of empty grain bags heading off to be recycled [Source: Cleanfarms]

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About Author

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Matt has worked in digital publishing for twenty years, holding management positions at Nature (nature.com) and William Reed Business Media (foodmanufacture.co.uk etc.). He has also worked with BBC Worldwide, Centaur Media, UKi Media and Mark Allen Group. Since 2010 Matt has been a digital consultant working with B2B media companies in the agricultural, automotive, aviation, robotics and technology sectors. As Chairman of his local allotment association Matt grows his own food whilst chasing the dream of a one tonne giant pumpkin. He is a member of the British Garden Media Guild and was a finalist in the Garden Media Guild Awards 'blog of the year' category in 2018 and 2019.

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