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August 19, 2013

95% of Agricultural Chemical Containers are Recycled in Brazil

In 2002, Brazil started a program to recycle empty containers of agricultural chemicals and to date; the program has registered very impressive results. Currently, it is estimated that 95% of all the empty chemical containers in Brazil are appropriately recycled. Brazil leads the world in these recycling efforts followed by France at 77% and Canada at 73% of their empty chemical containers being recycled. In fact, August 18th is designated as National Clean Field Day and kicks off a week-long campaign of activities at 110 recycling centers and 270 collection points located in 24 states.

Prior to the new program, empty containers were either burned or discarded in landfills because there was no organized program for recycling the containers. That all changed with the new program and the cooperation of manufacturers, distributors, farmers, as well as local and state governments. When any agricultural chemical is sold, the seller is required to put on the receipt the nearest recycling center for the empty containers.

After a decade of organizing the program and educating the farmers, they now know that the proper way of recycling the empty containers is to wash the containers three times by filling the container three fourths full and emptying the container into the sprayer, store the empty containers in a secure location and then to transport the containers to the nearest collection point. In fact, many local governments and farm groups organize recycling drives where they collect the containers from local farmers for transport to the recycling center. When a farmer returns the empty container for recycling, they are required to show their original receipt for the purchase of the chemical. For farmers who do not recycle their empty containers, there is the possibility of civil and criminal penalties.

Untimely, it is the manufactures who are responsible for recycling the containers and they have been keen to embrace the program because recycling the plastic containers saves energy and money as well as giving the industry an opportunity to show how they can actually help the environment by eliminating excessive soil and water pollution as well as the toxic smoke that occurs when the plastic containers are burned by farmers.

If the recycling center determines that the container was not cleaned thoroughly or not cleaned at all (approximately 5% of the total), the containers are burned in an approved incinerator. The majority of the plastic is recycled as plastic tubing or construction projects or as new containers for agricultural chemicals.

The National Institute for the Processing of Empty Containers (inpEV) estimates that between 2002 and 2012, there have been 240,000 tons of empty chemical containers recycled in Brazil.