TRENDS AND INNOVATION IN PHYTOSANITARY PACKAGING
Phytosanitary products are, undoubtedly, one of the great allies of agriculture in our century. Fertilizers, biostimulants, agri-nutrients but also pesticides and insecticides, aggressive formulations packaged in plastic containers, help to control crops, improving them in terms of quality and yield per hectare.
However, the waste generated by all these products has become one of the major problems of farmers and the plant protection packaging sector.
The main problem of used agrochemical or phytosanitary packaging is its toxicity. Having been in direct contact with toxic chemicals, it becomes as dangerous a waste as the substances it contains, being the responsibility of the latter users to manage it correctly to avoid environment contamination.
For this reason, triple-rinsing by farmers and other users has been identified as a key for successful container collection and recovery schemes. It is highly recommended that the farmer rinse the plastic container several times, achieving thus greater use of the product and better cleaning of internal waste, since the remains inside are also highly contaminant.
Collection and removal of used containers and obsolete pesticides from farms and other users represent significant risk reduction. This derives in the creation of companies and associations that organise the collection of such containers with the aim of reducing the impact of plastic packaging on the environment.,
Two examples of phytosanitary packaging collection systems for further management.
In Spain, the Law on contaminated waste, currently being updating to transpose the EU Directives on managing packaging and packaging waste, devotes a section to the “Extended producer responsibility (EPR)” and establishes a legal framework to ensure that producers bear the financial and organisational responsibility for the management of waste stage of a product’s life cycle, under the principle of “polluter pays”, this is: those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment.
The systems initially set up for strategic approach to sustainable waste management known in Spain as SIG (Integrated Management Systems) evolve into the current Extended Producer Responsibility Collective System, private companies created and jointly organized by the different subjects involved in any of the phases of the life cycle of a waste, from the generation of the product that will subsequently become waste after its use, until treatment.
The Spanish Sigfito Agroenvases is defined on its website as “a non-profit company created with the aim of organizing a collection system for agricultural packaging to give them a correct environmental treatment”
On the other hand, AEVAE, the Spanish Association for the Valuation of Packaging, has managed to create a “Extended Producer Responsibility Collective System (SCRAP) for manufacturers, packers and distributors of products for professional agricultural use, which guarantees collection and traceability for the correct valorisation of agricultural packaging waste.”
Both organisations bring together agrochemical manufacturers and farmers, always bearing in mind that “The end of all these measures and strategies has, as one of their main objectives, to get reusable or recyclable all plastic packaging marketed on the EU before 2030.”
To get these phytosanitary packaging recycled, farmers, the end users of such plastic containers, only have to take them to the collection point where they will be disposed and correctly managed.
INNOVATION FOR PHYTOSANITARY PACKAGING
Phytosanitary plastic packaging may suffer deformations due to chemical reactions inside when coming into contact with packaged products, or due to altitude or pressure changes. To avoid these incidents, a good option has been the use of multilayer plastic containers with barrier layer. However, nowadays these packaging provokes a different problem: the difficulty of being recycled. This is because the different layers of the plastic containers, made of different materials, are difficult to separate by mechanical recycling, having to use chemical recycling.
Therefore, Alcion, one of the phytosanitary plastic packaging producers, has been forced to evolve and innovate in packaging techniques to achieve a new alternative: barrier packaging manufactured using plasma fluorination technology.
This Plasma Fluorination technology provides barrier properties to a container by accelerating the surface coating process. But the big advantage is that, with this new technology, the barrier packaging is 100% recyclable. In addition, its manufacture is environmentally friendly throughout the process.
At Alcion, we use plasma fluorination technology to provide our customers with safe and quality packaging in a sustainable way, working always according to our corporate values.
This plastic packaging is fully approved for the industry and promote the circular economy and responsible consumption by facilitating their own recycling.
The phytosanitary plastic packaging industry has been evolving along the recent years to adapt themselves, not only to new regulations, but also to the needs of today’s world, becoming one of the sectors most committed to the environment.