20 Years Container Management Project – A Status Quo Report

Founded in 1994, the Container Management Project of the crop protection industry is now operational in 31 countries. According to a recent survey, in 2012 nearly 15,000 tonnes of empty pesticide containers were collected and recycled.

There are many ways in which the crop protection industry is working to actively promote sustainable agriculture, and full product life-cycle management has also had a significant role to play in keeping plastics out of landfill and indeed integrating a recycling culture into the farming culture. From initial design conception through to production and disposal, the crop protection industry is working every step of the way to ensure that pesticide containers are not just fully recyclable, but is actively promoting or collaborating in a range of national schemes that proactively encourage farmers and operators to recycle used containers.

With a pedigree of 20 years, the Container Management Project was begun 1994 and is now operational in 31 countries. Of these, eleven countries (France, Germany, Belgium/Luxemburg, Spain, Hungary, Portugal, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania) have nationwide industry-run collection and disposal schemes; in five more countries (Austria, Sweden, UK, Ireland, Czech Republic) the crop protection industry is a partner in a nationwide collection and disposal scheme; pilot projects are currently running in a further nine countries (Slovakia, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Turkey, Serbia, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece), and in six other countries municipal authorities run collection and disposal projects together with national member associations.

Partnerships are essential

Partnerships are essential to the ongoing success of this project, and the crop protection industry has actively encouraged and engaged the partnership and cooperation of various stakeholders representing farming communities, governments and local authorities. The results of such collaboration speak for themselves: In 2012, the ten industry-run programmes collected nearly 15,000 tonnes of pesticide containers. The recycling of these containers saved nearly 28 million liters of petrol. Moreover, this saved 125,000 cubic meters of landfill.

The majority of recovered containers are recycled into useful products such as drainage pipes, fence posts and traffic cones. If the containers are not rinsed properly, the left-over product could contaminate water if the empty containers are stored incorrectly and the residues leak into drains or other water sources. The crop protection industry has recognized this and advocates triple-rinsing to ensure that the container is absolutely clean. The rinsing should be done in a closed system where the water used to rinse is captured and used in the next application, rather than entering the sewage system. The water table benefits, the farmer benefits, and an added benefit is that in many countries the clean containers can be recycled and converted into useful products. The disposal of empty containers from pesticide products as well as the collection of empty containers is subject to national legislation. In the countries where containers are classified as hazardous waste, landfilling is one of the legal ways to dispose of the containers.

However, since triple-rinsing of containers removes on average about 99 per cent of the pesticides and is a tested and validated method for minimizing residual product and also preventing possible contamination of soil and water, ECPA, the European Crop Association, strongly advocated that properly rinsed containers are classified as non-hazardous waste throughout the EU, especially with regard to the amount of landfill which can so be saved. Furthermore, correct triple-rinsing also safeguards the water, since the rinsing water is kept out of the natural waterways and is disposed of in closed systems.

cms2Established programmes

In Germany and France are two of the longest-running projects. These have become so successful that dedicated companies have been established solely for the purpose of collection and recycling empty pesticide containers. In France, farmers have many collection points where they can deliver their empty and cleaned pesticide containers. A collection point exists in each department of the country. These collection points are managed by a dedicated company called Adivalor, a joint venture involving farmers, retailers and manufacturers to process agricultural waste products such as used pesticide containers, financed by all parties involved.

Adivalor was created in 2001 at the initiative of the Union des Industries de la Protection de Plantes (UIPP), the French national crop protection association, and today collects 77 per cent of pesticide containers. Adivalor is one of the biggest container management programmes in Europe, and since 2001 it has trained some 250,000 farmers, 1,000 distributors and 300 industrial organizations. More than 90 per cent of the plastic collected through the Adivalor programme is recycled. Germany’s “Pamira Programme” has been collecting and recycling empty pesticide containers since 1995. Founded by the German crop protection association IVA (Industrieverband Agrar), the programme has succeeded in achieving strong collection rates in Germany, with 2,665 tonnes of empty containers collected at 319 collection points in 2013. This means in comparison to the result of the year 2012 an increase of 1.6 per cent.

CMS collection in Greece

CMS collection in Greece

Further pilot projects launched

In several other countries, the process is just getting started. Pilot projects have been launched in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey and Russia. Greece’s voluntary multi-stakeholder pilot project was launched in the farming town of Kileler. It is designed to collect and recycle empty containers from 14 designated points. Kileler was chosen for the pilot project because as the largest municipality in the country (with over 800,000 acres of arable land) and a history of haphazard disposal of pesticide packaging, success of the pilot here will already have a significant positive environmental impact.

The system already generated great interest from local farmers and aims to involve all growers in the area. Those who sign up to the project receive dedicated training provided by Larissa Prefecture extension services. Project participants receive special transparent bags in which they can store the used, triple-rinsed containers for pick-up. Bags are individually assigned to each farmer, which enables inspection experts to identify whether and which farmers have properly cleaned the containers prior to disposal, allowing the prefecture to offer follow-up, targeted training and advice to those farmers who need to ensure all containers are properly triple-rinsed in preparation for recycling. Participation in the project is free and farmers receive a certificate of excellence upon fulfilling the programme requirements. The aim of this is to help strengthen the sense of responsibility and showcase farmers’ support for best practices in environmental protection.

Similar to Greece, a pilot project for collection of empty packaging from plant protection products launched in the Dobrich region of Bulgaria in 2013, to collect four tonnes of triple-rinsed empty pesticide containers from more than 40 large farms. The project succeeded in collecting five tonnes, 25 per cent more than the initial target. The project is now being expanded to all farms in the region, whence it will be gradually extended to the whole country. Lastly, in 2013 Russia started a pilot in the Voronezh oblast which is a joint initiative of national producers, ECPA member companies and the local authorities. 75 tonnes of empty packages were collected and recycled.


Photos: FTI Consulting