WHY DO WE LAG BEHIND THE REST OF EU ON SPRAY PACK DISPOSAL FRONT?

By John Allan SPRAY PACK disposal in France is streets ahead of UK efforts to address the problem, as the farmers weekly/Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year found when he visited the south of the country earlier this year.

The Adivalor scheme operating in France collected 5% of plastic spray packaging in its first year in 2000. Last year, that rose to 25% and the target is 50% by 2006.

“This leaves the UK way behind our EU colleagues,” says Michael Donnachie, sprayer operator at Ranston Farms, near Blandford Forum, Dorset.

Just how well the system works became evident when Mr Donnachie visited one of the 14 Ageris demonstration farms Syngenta sponsors in France.

The farms aim to promote good and profitable agricultural practice, involving integrated crop management to care for the soil, water and the wider environment.

At Chateau St-Louis la Perdix, Mr Donnachie saw a slick operation for chemical storage, sprayer filling and wash down, along with pack rinsing and disposal.

 Empty packs are rinsed into the sprayer tank using a hand-held lance. After a final rinse in the filling area, they go onto a drying rack and once drained are loaded into giant 500-litre plastic bags. These are sealed and delivered to distributors during at least two collection periods a year.

After inspection for proper rinsing, distributors forward the bags to one of 450 regrouping points, from where they go for energy recovery by incineration.

The Adivalor initiative is a co-operation between UIPP, the chemical manufacturers association, distributors, the government and others.

“An extensive website means details of the scheme and collection points are readily available to farmers,” points out Michel Leborgne of Syngenta France.

Aside from pack disposal, spray handling on the French farm largely mirrored Mr Donnachie”s own operation in Dorset.

 However, rather than using an underground storage tank for contaminated water, drainage from the filling and wash down area, which is roofed, led to a heavy duty plastic-lined catch pit surrounded by a mesh fence and covered with a corrugated plastic roof.

“This allows evaporation of surplus water and cuts down on the volume of contaminated waste sent for controlled disposal,” says manager Christophe Barraud

. That’s fine when temperatures top 30C day after day, but not so easy with UK weather, says Mr Donnachie.