“Who Will Help Recycle this Bag?”

Written by: Linda Maendel on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

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 are 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. “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 over the phone. “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.

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

Duane Kirchner of Kirchner Machine 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 province (MB), 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

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Showing 14 comments

Diana said:reply
On: 31st May, 2012 at 01:56

I really enjoyed your article on the recycling of these huge grain bags. My kindergarten class visited a dairy farm and they had silage in bags like you recycle. I am going to ask the farmer what he does with his bags. Last night I watched a program on the Hutterites and I had to look up the word on the computer. I enjoyed learning more about
the colony. You are a very hard working group with a deep respect and love for our God. Bless you .

Jessica said:reply
On: 7th Nov, 2014 at 15:18

It’s So Good To See People Care About This Earth. I Try To Recycle As Much As I Can. And For Every Christian It Should Be Something They Do To Care For The Earth GodHas Given Us.

Wilbur said:reply
On: 19th Nov, 2014 at 09:56

we have 34 10X300 grain bags on the ground this year. We would like to recycle them. Would you take them? Do you pay any thing for the plastic?

Thanks
Wilbur Gingerich
217-273-4549

    Linda said:reply
    On: 19th Nov, 2014 at 14:07

    No, sorry, we don’t. I just wrote the article. You would have to contact the Alberta colony mentioned in the article.

robbie said:reply
On: 17th Feb, 2015 at 16:41

Is there anywhere to take them in Kansas? No one I’ve checked wants to take them in midwestest of US? I cannot afford to ship them to Canada. Can we get more people to take the plastic? Some people I talked to used to but don’t as it takes to much to do the required cleanning.

    Lindamaendel said:reply
    On: 17th Feb, 2015 at 16:45

    Sorry, Robbie, I have no idea to take them in Kansas, or any where else in the US, for that matter. There must be places though. One just has to find them.

Shayne Morgan said:reply
On: 9th Apr, 2015 at 19:46

Hello I am Shayne Morgan, Recycling Manager in Bow Island. I am looking for for information on who I can sell grain bags to if we deliver them what is the price per tonn? How do they need to be packagesd as some are not rolled up. If you could help me on this that would be great. You can email me or call me at 403-952-5582

Christine harris said:reply
On: 21st Jan, 2016 at 18:51

I have a few questions on recycling grain bags and silage. Would you be interested in accepting our loads? If not do you know of a place we can ship to? Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.
Christine Harris

Christine harris said:reply
On: 21st Jan, 2016 at 18:51

I have a few questions on recycling grain bags and silage. Would you be interested in accepting our loads? If not do you know of a place we can ship to? Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.
Christine Harris

    Linda said:reply
    On: 29th Mar, 2016 at 21:03

    No, we’d not be interested in your grain bags, but you could contact the company mentioned in the article.

William Rein er said:reply
On: 11th Nov, 2016 at 13:22

Where do I go to recycle [plastic grain bags. I live in the Carroll,Ohio area. 43112

    Lindamaendel said:reply
    On: 14th Nov, 2016 at 16:54

    There’s this thing called “Google”. Perhaps you can use it to see if there’s someone in your area who recycles grain bags.

Isaac Braun said:reply
On: 10th Apr, 2017 at 18:15

HI looking at recycling grain bags in the northern part of Alberta in clear hills county area wondering if you would send me your contact info. so we could talk on the phone cause we have lots of plastic up in this area or you can call me @780-834-8835 email @ ijb51126187@hotmail.com I have a garbage disposal caled Cleardale disposas

    Lindamaendel said:reply
    On: 10th Apr, 2017 at 19:08

    Sorry, I can’t help you, as I’m from Manitoba and we don’t recycle grain bags. But you could contact Crowfoot Plastics, mentioned in to article. They’re in AB.