Brazil Leads World in Container Management

Since 2002, Brazil has collected 400,000 tons of empty pesticide containers from 1.3 million farms for proper disposal or recycling. That’s equivalent to filling the Maracanã — Brazil’s national football stadium — 26 times. These impressive statistics represent the largest and most successful container management program in the world.

It’s a crop protection industry initiative run by the National Institute for Processing Empty Containers (InpEV) and supported by the Brazilian government. Operational in 2002, InpEV is a non-profit organization that represents the industry in its responsibility to properly dispose of crop
protection product containers. InpEV has more than 100 member companies representing the entire value chain in Brazil, including 100 percent of all crop protection product manufacturers, the Brazilian farmers’ federation, distribution channels and national crop protection associations such as
ANDEF (Associação Nacional de Defesa Vegetal).

The program, aptly named Campo Limpo (“Clean Field” in Portuguese), goes like this: By law, farmers are required to properly rinse (pressure or triple rinse) all rigid crop protection product containers and puncture them to prevent reuse. Flexible bags are not rinsable, but they must be returned to collection centers. Growers take all empty containers to the local collection center indicated on their product invoice. Then InpEV collects the containers and dispatches them to their final destination: a recycling center (rinsed) or incinerator (unrinsed).

“Dealers and cooperatives must provide the address to which to return containers on crop protection product invoices and offer collection sites,” says João Cesar Meneghel Rando, president of InpEV. “The legal responsibility belongs to these distributors as the law states that whomever sells the products, must recover them.”

Crop protection product manufacturers sell their products through about 4,500 distributors and cooperatives or directly to farmers throughout the country. Farmers must deliver empty product containers within one year of purchase to designated receiving units. More than 400 collection sites are
managed by about 270 regional cooperatives and distributor associations. The latter distributors also have to manage the collection sites and issue proof of delivery of empty containers, as well as guide farmers on container management procedures. InpEV supports the operational processes of the
receiving units and also provides guidance to farmers about their responsibilities via a good operational practices manual. About 45,000 tons of empty crop protection product containers were recovered in 2015, representing 94 percent of all such containers made of plastic.

This high level of compliance began with a very effective law: In 2000, the proper disposal of empty crop protection product containers became obligatory under the Brazilian federal government with shared responsibility among stakeholders. The government grants licenses to receiving
units, inspects all elements of the Campo Limpo system and fines stakeholders who don’t comply. In addition, it supports public education initiatives to spread knowledge of the legislation.

“There are penalties for non-compliance from fines to prosecution as it is considered a crime against the environment,” explains Rando. “All stakeholders are subjected to these penalties. There have been only a few cases of prosecution with growers — we have nearly 100 percent compliance.”


Adding Value Through Recycling

The Campo Limpo system has partnerships with 10 recycling and four incineration companies located in six states. At least half of the recycling plants manage plastic, while the others handle paper and metal, Rando says. Run by InpEV, the majority only recycle crop protection product containers. Recycled plastic is used to make corrugated tubes, cables, construction materials and even new crop protection product containers. Metal goes to construction materials. Recycled paper goes into barrel cartons used by other industries or packing materials for incineration.
Creating a closed loop system, one recycling company produces plastic resin for new crop protection product containers. In fact, InpEV founded it — Campo Limpo Reciclagem e Transformação de Plásticos S.A. (Recycling and Transformation of Plastic) — in 2008 with 29 shareholders who are all InpEV affiliates. The company produces three-layered jugs called Ecoplástica Triex® with an external layer made with 85 percent recycled plastic. These jugs are the first crop protection product containers made with recycled plastic resin that have United Nations’ certification for ground transport.

“The objective of recycling empty product containers is to generate value to reduce costs of the system,” says Rando. “It’s environmentally advantageous as well because preventing new container production reduces carbon dioxide emissions.” Depending on the technique, plastic product containers can be recycled up to three times. “If you have a good recycling process that maintains plastic quality, you can recycle the containers more than one time,” notes Rando. “Recycling plastic jugs is most cost-efficient because liquid formulations need jugs but there are other materials that could be recycled as well. We’re focusing on a closed loop system to turn containers as well as caps into new ones. In addition, the industry is always looking for new ways to produce jugs that are easier and safer to handle.”

Another InpEV start-up, Campo Limpo Tampas e Resinas Plásticas LTDA (Caps and Plastic Resins), produces caps with recycled material for a range of products, including other chemicals and motor oil. This company belongs to the same 29 shareholders as the plastic container recycling operation.
Campo Limpo Evolution. The Campo Limpo system evolved from a voluntary pilot project on container management that was started by ANDEF in 1992-93 with a cooperative government, distributor and grower collaboration. Its success led to the passage of the Brazilian law and founding of InpEV. “The mission of InpEV is to represent pesticide manufacturers in this system and their responsibilities by law: collection, transportation and environmentally correct disposal of empty product containers,” Rando notes.

“CropLife International is involved with 60 container management programs around the world but Brazil’s is one the most advanced,” he adds.
In Argentina, a bill was passed in mid-2016 to create a National Program for the Recovery of Pesticide Containers. Other countries may also follow suit based on the successful Brazilian model. “We run a mature program, with 94-95 percent of containers collected, so there is little room for growth,” explains Rando. “We are expanding at the same rate as the agricultural industry. Around 31 million hectares of soybeans are grown per year in Brazil — that’s already a very big area! But Brazilian agriculture is important so it is expanding.”

Shared Costs and Responsibilities

InpEV is funded by crop protection product manufacturers, which bear 85 percent of the total Campo Limpo system costs, including education. Growers only account for 3 percent of system costs and dealers/cooperatives 12 percent to maintain receiving units. Currently, 35 percent of costs are recovered from income generated within the Campo Limpo system. “All stakeholders have shared responsibility,” Rando notes. “We are aiming for a self-sufficient system that will pay for itself in the future. By 2019-20, we may subsidize 45-50 percent of the costs.” In order to fulfill their legal obligation, InpEV’s member companies invest on an annual basis according to the profile and volume of crop protection product containers they place in the market. Since 2002, these companies have spent more than R$900 million (US$280 million) on the Campo Limpo system.

National Campo Limpo Day

Not only is Campo Limpo very effective, it has its own annual day of recognition (August 18). This day is all about public education on recycling. There are 120 collection centers participating nationwide, which host people in their communities. Educators also travel to 2,060 schools in rural areas close to the centers to teach 210,000 kids 9-10 years old about how to care for the environment and properly dispose of and recycle household containers. There is even an annual contest for kids to draw or write something about environment, according to Rando.

“This year is the 12th observance of National Campo Limpo Day,” he notes. “The law requires this education, including national and local governments. Besides, we have a lot to celebrate.”The secrets to Brazil’s success? Rando picks out four things: 1) the law, 2) integration of the whole stakeholder chain, 3) education, and 4) good technological systems and processes. “We have a very proper governance model as well,” he concluded. “In Brazil, all sectors — but especially ours — have a very good container management story. Campo Limpo is good for our industry’s image as we comply 100 percent with the law. It’s also very positive for agriculture in general. It’s socially correct. Plus it generates 1,500 jobs. All of us in the Campo Limpo are very proud of what we’re doing.”