Ridding the World of Plastic Pollution – One Pesticide Container at a Time

CropLife South Africa, the industry association that represents responsible manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of sustainable crop protection solutions, takes plastic pollution very seriously and aims to be a leader in the recovery and recycling of polyethylene pesticide containers and polypropylene bags used for seed, fertilisers and animal feeds.

It maintains that there is no reason why these plastic materials should pollute the environment.  Recyclers are barely able to sustain their operations with the plastic materials they receive at present and can absorb much more than what currently enters the recycling chain.

Recycled polyethylene is a highly valuable material that is used to manufacture irrigation pipes, conduit for fibre optic cables, pallets, crates, troughs, fencing materials and vineyard posts while polypropylene is remanufactured into “plastic wood” for highly durable furniture, decking planks, feeding troughs, drinking troughs, letter boxes and garden toys.

In order for these valuable products to be manufactured with the plastic materials, the empty containers must first be triple-rinsed on the farm as any pesticide residues render these containers unfit for recycling. CropLife SA appeals to all farmers to ensure this practise is carried out.

Through its network of approved service providers, CropLife SA has ensured that 62 percent of empty plastic pesticide containers in South Africa are recovered and recycled. While the services of the current network are invaluable, the need for more participants to be involved in empty container collection, is undeniable.

Farmers, especially those in Limpopo, Northwest and the Free State are urged establish collection points for triple-rinsed empty plastic containers in order to expand the current network. The requirements for collectors and recyclers are available on the CropLife SA website. Collectors will be guided by CropLife SA in setting up collection points and will be linked to the recyclers to ensure that the collected material enters the nearest recycling facility.

Unfortunately, it has recently been uncovered that the unlawful practice of burning and burying empty containers, still takes place on some farms. This practice should cease immediately. It has also come to light that certain agents issue false certificates of disposal to farmers, while failing to collect and recycle the containers. Farmers are cautioned to only dispose of their empty containers via companies and individuals that are in possession of a CropLife SA Certificate of Approval. Approved service providers must issue a CropLife SA Certificate of Adequate Disposal to farmers, which is the only certificate accepted by the GlobalGAP auditors for GlobalGAP compliance. Should farmers become aware of any individual offering such services without the approval of CropLife SA, it must urgently be reported.

The race against plastic pollution is on. The plant protection industry uses 8,000 tonnes of polyethylene pesticide containers annually and during 2018 just over 5,000 tonnes were recovered. By the end of 2021 CropLife SA aims to have 90% of the containers recovered and recycled, while the process of collecting polypropylene bags has started as well. Farmers are urged to read the guidelines for cleaning these bags on the CropLife SA website.

The focus on responsible farming is mounting and with a commitment to a plastic pollution free environment, the South African farmer can set an example to consumers who also need to do their part in the fight against plastic pollution.

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