Pesticide manufacturers are responding to the forthcoming agricultural waste directive by trying to reduce the amount of plastic containers needing recycling, albeit with no standard system across the board, and with an eye on commercial opportunities.

The key strategy is to encourage the use of reusable containers or to change bottle production methods to reduce the amount of plastic requiring disposal.

For Syngenta, that means a return to the Link Pak reusable container scheme.

Past incarnations were not particularly popular with growers, who saw little benefit in using the packs, but the firm’s Garth Bretherton believes the market is now ready.

All of Syngenta’s herbicide and fungicide range will be available in Link Paks, he says.

“But growers do have to use the Link Pak in the right way because they are not cheap, and to be cost-effective they need to be used at least five times.”

Syngenta is looking at support growers in the cost of disposing of containers.

“One concept is a system whereby each Syngenta container comes with a voucher that either covers or goes part-way to covering the cost of disposal.”

The firm is also supporting a new plastic chipping system developed by Techneat.

“It’s a machine that chips chemical containers, reducing the volume of plastic to be stored on-farm for disposal.”

Fellow pesticide manufacturer DuPont is also considering a returnable scheme, says the firm’s Neil Morey.

The system, used in the USA, allows growers to buy product in bulk and dispense the correct amount for the area to be sprayed from a dispensing unit on the farm.

“It could suit contractors or large farmers in the UK and we are looking at it as an option.”

Also, DuPont has changed its bottle production method from blow to injection moulding, resulting in a 30% reduction of plastic in small 200ml pots and a 25% cut in the larger 400ml pots.

“We have also reduced the card in the outer box by 20%,” says Mr Morey.

Bayer CropScience has reduced plastic by switching its entire product range to translucent packs, which also enables the farmer and waste collector to see any residue, says the firm’s head of supply chain Steve Braund.

“Triple-rinsed bottles are classified by the Environment Agency as non-hazardous for waste purposes under the Waste Regulations and cost less to dispose of.”

Nufarm is concentrating on switching formulations to granules and dry flowables in bags where possible, says the firm’s Tudor Dawkins.

“Our granular IPU, Aligran, is a more concentrated formulation which reduces the material required to be applied, reduces the space needed to store packaging on farm, and results in less volume of waste.”

Makhteshim Agan’s main focus is on progression of its MinRinse packaging system.

“Growers are just buying the bag with the label printed on, so no caps, foil tops or outer cardboard packaging,” says marketing manager Louise Dalgleish.

“The waste saving is very good and there is no need to rinse.”

Encouraging the market into larger pack sizes is BASF’s answer, says the firm’s Matthew Blaken.

“We are trying to put more product into five- and 10-litre containers.”

One step further is intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), says Mr Blaken.

“But we have to evaluate what is the most effective container size for a product’s given dose.”

fwarable@rbi.co.uk