VIDEO: Charting the perfect pesticide packaging

Poor packaging has long been the bugbear of spraying operators who would rather be out in the field than wasting valuable time removing foil seals and rinsing out difficult to clean containers.


Major agrochemical companies have finally raised their game to provide better packaging that is easier to use with enhanced environmental benefits.

After months of trials with growers, BASF launched its new Eco Pack range this month. With its foil-free lids and milk bottle shape it will likely prove popular with growers.

But just how far are manufacturers from producing the “perfect” pesticide packaging?

The current Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year and Gloucestershire grower Andrew Myatt looks at the essential ingredients to make the perfect packaging.

Size

Size is relative to concentration. If it is a bulky product, then you want 10 or 15 litre bottles, which are a nice, manageable size to empty into a sprayer,” says Mr Myatt.

“Many sprayer tanks have a capacity greater than 3000 litres, so you don’t want 1ha pack because most of the time you are mixing up bigger quantities than that.

He believes you need a minimum of 5ha, if not 10ha in a container.

“It’s better having one container instead of five small ones to open, handle and wash, which increases the time spent washing out.

On the other hand, you don’t want a big, bulky product, as 20-litre cans are not designed well for washing out,” he adds.

The perfect package


Size
Ideally contain sufficient product for at least 5ha or 10ha

Shape
Milk-bottle shaped with large opening

Foils
No foil with re-sealable lid

Handles
Easy to grip with gloves on

Colour
Transparent

Labels
Colour coding to avoid mixing mistakes

Storage
Easy to handle boxes

Recyling
Robust container which is easily crushed when empty 

Shape

A milk bottle-style shape which drains out easily and safely is best, says Mr Myatt. “With this shape, chemicals are less likely to stick to the side.

“You want a nice, smooth funnel effect with a big bottle opening. This allows you to get the can-washing equipment over it easily and it reduces glugging as well.

“A 2in cap, like Syngenta’s S-pac, is ideal,” he says.

Foils

“Growers prefer the speed and convenience of using self-sealed tops with no foil, as removing foil takes time.

“No foils also mean less risk of contamination and environmental pollution with less material to dispose.

“If you do have to remove seals, manufacturers need to remember that you are handling these chemicals with gloves on.

“Some gloves are not a snug fit, so you want foils that are easily removed because of the risk of contamination,” says Mr Myatt.

Handles

It has got to be something you can grip well when wearing gloves.

“The handle doesn’t want to be too smooth and have a big enough opening that a hand with gloves on can fit easily.

“You do not want a tub full of chemicals spilling out and you don’t want them going up around the handle,” he says.

He believes some companies overlook the fact that you are wearing gloves, therefore, making handles too small.

Colour

“I’m used to working with white plastic cans, but I would prefer transparent bottles,” says Mr Myatt.

Some bottles have gauges which let you view how much liquid is left in the container and whether you have washed it out completely.

A transparent bottle would be ideal, but manufacturers say there are issues with the breakdown of chemicals if they are exposed to light, he adds.

Mr Myatt believes one compromise would be to have a transparent part towards the bottom of the can which can be covered from sunlight.

“You would be able to see the bottom of the can and make sure it is clean when draining and there are no chemicals left attached to the bottom of the container.”

The neck and the bottom are other likely points where chemicals stick.

See Andrew Myatt’s top tips

Labelling

Manufacturers could consider a colour coding system. Some bottles of different chemicals look similar, and if you are in a hurry, Mr Myatt believes there is always the chance that you will mix the wrong products together.

“Coding would lower the risk of making a mistake.” But of course, it is a legal requirement to read the label properly, he stresses.

Storage

Ten litre bottles normally come as twin packs in a single cardboard box and the boxes are then recycled.

However, Mr Myatt was critical that manufacturers sometimes put tape over the top of boxes which then goes over the handles or finger holes down the sides, making them difficult to lift.

“This is annoying, especially when time is everything. Ideally, the boxes would come in a crate, but nobody wants to take them back. It would also be nice to have universal cap sizes.

“Some of our chemicals come in 1000 litre cans and we use a suction system to get the product out.”

Experiments were made with returnables a few years ago, but the idea never took off, he says.

Recycling

Some bottles are made from plastic which is too thin and if they bulge, the liquid can spill out. Also when using the induction hopper, you have to push down on a bar to get the liquid out and some of the weaker bottles collapse when they are pushed too hard. Therefore you need a fairly robust cover, says Mr Myatt.

However, as Alistair Leake, head of the Allerton Project which runs a pesticides containers recycling scheme for local farmers in Leicestershire points out, manufacturers have yet to produce a robust bottle which can be drastically crushed for recycling.

“Cans should be robust while chemicals are inside, but after use the more we can squash into a bale, the cheaper the transport and disposal costs.”

Another factor making recycling easy is having the same type of plastic in bottle construction, says Mr Leake. But he acknowledges that it is unrealistic because different pesticide formulations need different types of resistant plastics.

He agrees with Mr Wyatt that transparent containers are the best, but for a different reason. “Transparent containers can be dyed and recycled for further use in other products.”

Finally, with labels, they should be easily removed and made from materials that can be easily washed and recycled, says Mr Leake.

What packaging developments have the key manufacturers achieved in the last few years?

Syngenta

Syngenta was the first company to eliminate the need for foil seals with the launch of its S-pac in June 2008.

With its foil-free fully recyclable pack, operators can open, measure out and reseal containers in half the time. Syngenta says it is now applying the same efforts to its granular product packaging.

BASF

BASF’s Eco Pack, launched this month, is foil-free with integrated seals and large openings. It also includes central opening for easier rinsing and emptying, flexible handling and a slip-free gripped container with embossed logos for security.

BASF claims it is made from 25% less plastic than standard containers and is easier to crush for recycling. The transparent plastic means most liquids can be seen inside the bottle.

Bayer CropScience

Recent Bayer developments include packages with large openings to minimise glugging, an easy-to-rinse shape which stacks easy, stronger handles for carrying and translucent gauges.

DuPont

DuPont’s a range of sulfonylurea herbicides, branded SX, was launched in 2005.

An integral doser cap makes the pack easier to open and measure the volume of product required when wearing gloves. The cap is always attached to the pot which prevents loss and contamination, says the company.

Makhteshim Agan

MAUK developed MinRinse packaging, where formulations are packed into a tough single piece of 10kg plastic packaging.

Makhteshim claims the advantages include no lids, foil seals, cardboard packaging or tape. Label information is printed directly onto the pack.

The design means the bags do not require triple rinsing which saves a huge amount of time when filling sprayers. Empty packaging is not rigid, so packs take up little space in store before recycling. 

Current pesticides rated

Manufacturer/ Product

Container size

Minimum amount of packaging

Reasonable area covered per container

Ease of foil removal/no foil

Wash out and draining

Overall rating

Makhteshim Agan Falcon

5 litres

4

4

3

3

3.5

Crater

1 litre

4

4

2

5

3.75

Monsanto Roundup Klik

20 litres

5

4

5

2

4

Bayer Liberator

3 litres

4

3

3

3

3.25

Dupont Harvesan

3 litres

4

3

3

2

3

Lexus Class

60g

1

1

1

5

2

BASF Laser

5 litres

4

4

3

3

3.5

C-Chlormequat

10 litres

4

4

3

2

3.25

Headland Riza

5 litres

4

4

3

3

3.5

Sulphur

10 litres

5

4

3

2

3.5

De Sangosse Newmans T-80

5 litres

4

4

2

1

2.75

Syngenta Bravo 500

10 litres

4

4

5

4

4.25

Hallmark

1 litre

4

5

5

5

4.75

Dow Agro Sciences Starane 2

5 litres

4

4

3

5

4

Note: Products were rated 1-5 with 1 being the worst to 5 being the best. Ratings for the products chosen are purely for a packaging point of view and are unrelated to the performance of the contents.