João Cesar M. Rando

Empty Containers with the Right Destination

Brazil has more than 70 million hectares cultivated and a climate favorable to the proliferation of pests and diseases. Can you imagine the amount of agrochemical containers that are generated and need to be disposed off? This is when the work of the National Institute for Processing Empty Containers (inpEV) begins.

The entity gives adequate destination to containers in order to preserve the environment and ensure the sustainability of Brazilian agricultural production. A world reference in this activity, inpEV collects 94% of the containers used in crop protection products in the country.

In the 1990s, the large volume of agrochemical containers began to worry industry representatives in Brazil who decided to create a reverse logistics program for the disposal of the used packages. The "Clean Field System" program was born. It consisted of a set of methodologies, techniques and processes to deal with the problem. In order to implement the program across the country, inpEV was founded in 2001 as a non-profit institute with a mandate to act as the intelligence center of the system.

Under a federal law, the “Clean Field System” establishes obligations related to the reception and destination of empty containers for each link of the agribusiness chain. It involves manufacturers, distributors, farmers and public authorities. These agents share responsibilities. The distributor, for example, indicates in the sales receipt the place where the farmer must return the empty units. The producer is responsible of washing and returning the containers to the receiving centers of inpEV – which, on behalf on the industry, will take care of the empty containers, recycling or incinerating them. The government stewards the operation of the system, issuing licenses to the centers of reception of the containers and activating awareness campaigns in the agricultural sector.

João Cesar M. Rando
João Cesar M. Rando
João Cesar M. Rando
Founder and CEO of the National Institute for Processing Empty Containers (inpEV)

inpEV has around 100 associates, including crop protection manufacturers and entities representing the sector. The institute trains farmers to properly dispose of packaging following the guidelines and safe procedures establish by the “Clean Field System”. The organization has established 410 centers across the country, which serves 1.3 million rural properties in Brazil receiving containers.

The network established through inPEV has allowed the collection of more than 450,000 tons of empty containers since the institute was created. Currently, 94% (more than 44,000 tons per year) of these materials are removed from farms around the country. In France, which has the second best performance, the number is 77%, followed by Canada with 73%. The United States ranks ninth, with 33% collection rate. The organization estimates that the collection of packages used in agriculture in Brazil resulted in a reduction of approximately 572,000 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere between 2002 and 2016.

The experience of inpEV has inspired other countries. Currently, 60 countries have programs similar to Brazil, 18 of them in Latin America. There is a growing trend towards broadening this type of program on a global scale.

The results have been so impressive and the impact so tangible that the initiative is celebrated with a commemorative date, the “National Clean Field Day”, on August 18th. On the day, several awareness actions for the entire agricultural value chain and the rural communities take place. In the 2017 edition, 130 reception centers across the country participated in the events and more than 70 thousand people were exposed to the work.

But inpEV has not stopped there, it is ploughing forward. While manufacturers of agrochemicals, such as Bayer, invest to support the success of the operation, the institute is seeking other sources of funding, with the creation of two additional programs: one that recycles the plastic from the returned containers, to produce new containers; and another that produces lids and resins from the recycled plastics.

With a focus on sustainable agriculture, Brazil is a trailblazer and the programs implemented have proven that public and private sectors can work together in innovative processes that preserve the greatest heritage of our planet: the environment.

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Joelma Amaral
April 11, 2018 - 04:20 PM

Great example! Brazil is a reference in this field and I was glad to see the system working.

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