Sustainable Industry

Brazil is a world benchmark in the recycling of pesticide containers

Its model reverse logistics system achieves 94% reuse of containers used in the field

Brazil is a world leader in the recycling of pesticide containers. Nationally, 94% of the pesticide containers sold in the market are sent for recycling, and the remaining 6% are incinerated, providing an environmentally correct destination for 100% of the product. In 2021, 53.600 tons of empty containers were correctly disposed of.

“Over 60 countries currently have reverse logistics systems for pesticide containers. Brazil’s recycling rate is above 90%, thus making it a leader in this segment. Countries such as France, Canada and Germany recycle around 70%-80%. Japan and Australia’s rate is 50%, whereas the USA’s around 30%”, said the Director of the National Institute for the Processing of Empty Packaging (inpEV), João César Rando.

To achieve this result, in 1992 the industry started a voluntary reverse logistics system for the disposal of plastic containers, launching the Campo Limpo System (SCL).

“Back then, empty containers were left in the field, where they became a source of problems. No one knew what to do. Guidance included either digging ditches, covering them with plastic canvas, and burying the containers, or throwing the containers anywhere in the property, or reusing it incorrectly. That was an issue, so the industry realized that it had to seek a solution,” explained João Rando.

SCL is managed by inpEv and has more than 260 resale associations and cooperatives, serving around two million rural properties across the country. It has in place more than 400 units for collecting empty containers. In addition to plastic material, inpEV also receives and sends cardboard boxes and metallic packaging for recycling.

Complete cycle – Today, Law 9974/2000 establishes that the pesticide’s end-user must wash and return the empty container within a year, and those retailers include in the invoice the unit where the farmer will return it, in addition to arranging for its reception. inpEV organizes the logistics and disposes of the product in an environmentally correct manner. The institute has ten recycling partners and four incineration sites.

In addition to the proper disposal of the container, the institute also put in place a program for the proper disposal of pesticide leftovers. Since 2015, 400 tons have been properly disposed of.

“Leftovers result from farmers not using the product entirely or when it was out of specification. That too requires careful disposal. The system opened up this possibility for the farmer to return the leftovers to the system units, when he takes the empty containers for propoer disposal. That’s where we process it properly”, explained João.

New uses – Over 31 different types of products are made from the containers. They range from pipes of different sizes and for different uses, to the production of new pesticide containers, which the industry uses once more, thus closing the cycle of the circular economy.

Plastibras, for example, uses these containers to manufacture corrugated ducts, which are used on a large scale in infrastructure works in electricity, telecommunications, and commercial and residential buildings applications.

“Not long ago, these containers were buried, burned, or disposed of outdoors, causing serious damage to the environment. Today they are reused, creating employment opportunities and income, in addition to serving as raw material for the production of various products,” says the company Director, Adilson Valera Ruiz.

Social and Environmental Education – In 2009, inpEV created the Campo Limpo Environmental Education Program (EAD) with the objective of educating and raising the population’s environmental awareness. “Taking advantage of the high capillarity of the System, the Institute saw the opportunity to go beyond raising awareness among farmers and prepared itself to reach other audiences, especially children and young people who live close to the disposal units,” stated João Rando. Since its creation, the Program has had an impact on 2.1 million 4th and 5th grade Elementary School students.

In 2021, the program took on a hybrid format, distributing pedagogical kits for classroom of remote education use. It also launched a distance education course on Environmental Education: pedagogical theory and practice in solid waste management, aimed at educators from all over Brazil, not just teachers from schools participating in the program.

The initiative reached, in 2021 alone, 195,300 students from 2,105 schools and 244 municipalities. The program’s launch webinar had over 72 thousand views and its website had a 101% increase in the number of visitors.