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November 27, 2012

Brazil Recycles 90% of Empty Agricultural Chemical Containers

In 2002, Brazil started a program of recycling empty plastic containers that contained agricultural chemicals such as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc. Prior to this nationwide program being initiated, these containers were generally either buried or burned in the open air. Since this program has been in place, the vast majority of empty ag chemical containers are now being recycled responsibly.

The recycling program was started in 2002 with legislation that established the National Institute for the Processing of Empty Containers (inpEV). During the ten years the program has been in effect, it has recycled 231,400 tons of empty containers or enough to fill 115,000 trucks. In 2012 an estimated 37,000 tons of empty containers will be recycled, which is up from 34,200 tons that were recycled in 2011.

The cost of the program is estimated at approximately R$ 75 million per year and the chemical manufactures pick up about 80% to 85% of the cost of the program. An additional 10% to 14% is paid for by wholesalers and cooperatives leaving only 1% of the costs to be paid for by producers.

InpEV estimates that nationwide 80% of the empty chemical containers are being recycled with the state of Parana leading the way with 97% of the empty containers being recycled. The program is very successful in Parana due to the predominance of smaller farmers in the state and the organization of the program. Collection trucks pick up containers on pre-determined dates at 58 collection points scattered throughout the state. The farmers are responsible for dropping off the containers at the collection points and then the inpEV program takes it from there.

Before dropping off the containers at collection points, the farmers must clean the containers with clean water and puncture the bottom of the container making it unusable. If the containers are not rinsed under pressure, then it is recommended that the containers be filled one-quarter full with clean water and rinsed for 30 seconds and the process repeated three times.

Each farmer is informed about his local collection point by having it printed on the sales receipt when he purchases the chemicals. Farmers are responsible for transporting the containers to collection points and they are instructed to never transport the empty containers along with people, animals, food, medications or animal feed.

Once collected, the containers are sorted by type, size, and state of cleanliness. The inpEV program eventually turns the containers into plastic pellets called post-consumer resin that are used to make new products mostly for the construction industry such as electrical conduits