Recycling pesticide containers

What we don’t see about the food we eat

A lot of us think that fresh vegetables come in little Styrofoam trays and packets from the supermarket, with neatly embossed recycling icons. What we don’t see is how they are produced and there are some things the producers don’t want us to see.

Take commercial farming; at most stages of growing a crop the farmers are at war with bugs, insects and other predators. Apart from the organic farmers, most use pesticides to keep the crop healthy and vitamins to boost the crop yield.

There is a well-established industry body (Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of SA – AVCASA) which represents the animal and crop associations. AVCASA does excellent work in training, representing and guiding its members. The trouble is not all its members adhere to the guidelines.

One such guideline regulates how to safely recycle the containers in which the pesticides are packaged. In brief, the plastic containers must be triple rinsed and the water then reused on the lands. The container must also be punctured to avoid it being used to hold other liquids, only then should it be sent for recycling.

The problem for some farmers is that this is too much work and maybe they do not have the time or labour. So many resort instead to burying the containers, or worse, burning them. Some farmers go so far as building incinerators for this purpose. This is what you and I – the consumer – don't see.

There is a solution to recycling pesticide containers, a simple change of mindset & practice

With a small investment and a change of practice, recycling pesticide containers can be easy. One solution is for the supplier of the pesticides to take back the container at the end of its life and ensure that it is correctly disposed of.

The supplier could then arrange to collect the empty container and take that hassle away from the purchaser. By adding a few cents to each container the supplier could well gain market share and proactively be seen as acting responsibly. In some countries ink cartridges are sold with a pre-addressed and pre-paid envelope in which the buyer places the old cartridge and then posts it.

I believe this solution is practical, affordable and doable but it will only happen when the consumer starts to push back and holds the producers to account on our environmental impact.

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