Astrid Paulus

The Life of an Agrochemical Packaging

In the view of the increasing discussion about plastic waste and plastic recycling, we would like to share some more information about packaging and container management for agrochemical products.

Our packaging plays a key role in protecting users, the public and the environment from unnecessary exposure; but once the product is used, packaging becomes waste, and increasingly, a resource for recycling programs.

Bayer and all major agrochemical companies in Europe are members of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA). Already in the 1980s ‘Container Management System’ was put into place by ECPA to ensure safe handling of empty containers after the product has been used.

Bayer has been actively engaged since the inception of the program and developed our packaging to be user friendly, easy to handle and secure; the material used and the shape of the containers are also designed for efficient rinsing and draining.

In some countries, the farmers are encouraged to return empty containers either by refunds or by training and convincing them of the advantages (“best use of entire product). Bayer trains farmers to apply the “triple rinsing method” – once the containers are empty and therefore achieving a thoroughly cleansed container. The triple rinsing method is a standardized method which includes rinsing the container three times with fresh water, while letting the rinsate drain into the spray mixture.

Astrid Paulus, Global Packaging Technology
Astrid Paulus, Global Packaging Technology
Astrid Paulus,
Global Packaging Technology at Bayer Division Crop Science

The clean containers are then gathered at collection centers, mostly established at retailers or distribution centers). In some EU countries (e.g. France), it is done throughout the year. In other EU countries, collections are done either during or after the application season. In some countries where farms are very large the collection is done directly at the farms. Regular inspections at the collection centers ensure that containers are thoroughly rinsed and drained.

Activities at a collection center
Activities at a collection center
Activities at a collection center

From the collection centers the containers are transported to recycling facilities. Now the material of the containers has turned into a valuable resource for recycling. At the recycling facilities the material is washed again, melted and transformed into regranules. This secondary raw material is used to produce a number of items, mainly for industrial purposes. The partners of the Container Management Systems who are responsible for this part of the value chain have received a list of tested end use applications for recovered agrochemical plastic containers, which is issued by ECPA. Some of the tested end use applications are for example tubes for protection of glass fiber internet cables, drainage piping or agricultural fence posts. Other applications, e.g. the transformation into new containers – containers with recycled material and virgin material – are currently tested.

The Container Management Systems have been implemented in most European countries. They are either industry-run or managed by other industrial or household waste management systems. In EU recycling of agrochemical product packaging has achieved a successful 70% of recovery and recycling in 2016.

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Container Management Landscape (Source: ECPA)
Container Management Landscape (Source: ECPA)
Container Management Landscape (Source: ECPA)
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