Saturday, 21 April 2012

“Who Will Help Recycle this Bag?”

Photo courtesy of Greenline Enterprises Inc. (SK),

            In recent years gigantic grain bags have become a common sight on the prairies. Like giant white sausages, stretched out across fields, these bags are quick to set up when farmers run out of grain storage space. However, once the ‘grain sausages’ are emptied there is tons of plastic begging to be recycled.

Green Acres Hutterite Colony, near Bassano, Alberta answered this call. They operate a large scale recycling business, Crowfoot Plastics, the first of its kind in Alberta. I learned about this from Shannon LeClair’s (Strathmore Times) online article, ‘Recycling Initiative Sweeps through the County’.

 Having never heard of anybody recycling these bags, I was curious and of course excited, since there are literally miles of these bags across the prairies. My colony has used them a few times and I remember asking what happens to them after they're emptied. Not surprising, the answer was, “They go to the nuisance ground.” As we all know, they will still be there many years from today or pollute the environment when burned. Sadly, people are left with no other choice but to burn or bury the plastic when there’s no recycling program in place. Thankfully though, one Alberta Hutterite colony has an eco-friendly solution to this problem and hopefully this ‘recycling initiative’ will sweep beyond the aforementioned county.

 Brothers, Larry and Henry Hofer of the Green Acres Colony operate Crowfoot Plastics.  “We own the equipment and two years ago we merged with Merlin Plastics.” Larry told me in a phone conversation. “Right now we’re busy from 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday to Saturday. “

 “We’ve been recycling grain bags for two years now,” Henry Hofer explained. “Our company is five years old and we recycle approximately five million pounds of plastic a year – this includes high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic and gas pipe and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic grain bags.” Crowfoot Plastics pays fifty dollars a ton and people have to truck the plastic to the plant themselves.

Photo courtesy of Kirchner Machines in Lethbridge, AB

To make it easier for Crowfoot Plastics employees to handle the bags and to minimize the accumulation of more dirt, it's imperative that the bags be rolled with a special machine. “We simply do not except bags that have not been rolled.” Larry informed me. “We highly recommend using the Kirchner Roller, as it rolls the grain bags nice and tight and more importantly, not to wide.”

 Duane Kirchner of Kirchner Machines in Lethbridge, AB has developed a bag roller, which can be used on a large skid steer loader or a tractor similar to a JD 740, and requires one hydraulic outlet. The roller can be custom built for the farmer’s tractor.

             Bags have to be relatively clean before going through the shredder at Crowfoot Plastics. Once shredded, the plastic goes into the washers, where the heavier material, rocks and grains sink to the bottom, while the plastic floats to the top. After the drying and grinding process the extruding takes place, here the plastic gets melted to 200 ͦ C, pushed through a 110 micro screen to filter out impurities and then finally pelletized.  These pellets are eventually made into garbage bags. One grain bag makes roughly 10,000 garbage bags.

           In conclusion, there are no easy answers on what can be done about these bags in our  own province; other than trucking them to Crowfoot Plastics. Hopefully though, someone will rise to the challenge, and follow in the footsteps of Crowfoot Plastics. However, there is something that individuals can do to support this recycling endeavor: Consider using garbage bags, or any other products manufactured from recycled plastic. In order for companies like Crowfoot Plastics to continue this important mission, they need consumers to buy their products; thus, as good stewards of the earth, contributing to a clean, green environment.  The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

Oh, one more thing you could do: Please pass this post on to other people. Hopefully as it travels through cyber space, it will plant some seeds that will grow into operations such as the one mentioned in the article. Thanks!


  1. I like this article very much.

  2. Linda, thanks very much for this most excellent article. I have long believed that there is a special place for Christians to be stewards of God's gifts and resources. This sounds like an exciting venture and true stewardship all at the same time.

  3. Awesome Earth Day post, Linda. Really interesting.

    What did they do with extra grain before there was plastic?

  4. I don't know what everybody else did, but we've made a pile in the field and covered it with a tarp. As you can imagine a lot goes to waste that way. The grain can stay in these bags for months without spoiling.


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