Recycling of empty plastic containers from the Zambian Seed Industry

Zambian seed companies are shifting to a circular economy! In 2021, Seedcare, Tandem and M&F Packaging developed an innovative project to collect and recycle empty plastic packaging waste, thereby capturing the value and transforming waste into new products: plastic benches:

The raw material

The seed inIn order to protect seed and reduce soil chemical exposure, the seed industry uses Seedcare products to treat seed, such as maize. These products are supplied in plastic containers which were previously disposed into landfills or through co-processing in a cement kiln.

Now instead the plastic is melted and moulded into new plastic products, such as electrical fittings, building materials, pavement, or….these benches! A few challenges needed to be addressed however, to be able to get to this stage.

The challenges

Collecting, washing and transporting empty chemical containers is a costly and time-intensive process and it is not feasible for one single company to organize. This is why the seed companies in Zambia participated in a joint effort to set up a shared logistics platform and to collaborate with a single suitable recycler for the whole industry.

Once this collaboration was set up, another challenge needed to be addressed. Empty chemical containers still contain hazardous product residue, even if not visible to the eye, and that residue needs to be removed by washing, before the containers are fit for recycling. The water used for washing chemical containers can contain a variety of chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, oils, detergents, and solvents.

Removing these chemicals from water is usually only possible by using expensive, advanced technologies, however Syngenta provides a much simpler and cost effective way: by removing the water from the chemicals.

The Heliosec® allows water to evaporate as quickly using the sun and wind. After the water is evaporated, only a fine residue is left within the Heliosec ®: all the hazardous chemicals from the wastewater. This chemical residue is carefully rolled up in the internal liner and disposed of in a local hazardous waste processing facility.

This system assures that hazardous chemicals are captured 100% and makes it possible to clean and recycle chemical plastic packaging waste.

The partners

This recycling project is the result of the 2021 Zambia Seed Industry Waste Management Initiative, led by Tandem Circular Consulting and sponsored by Seedcare and INCOTEC. This project and the entire initiative demonstrate Seedcare’s leadership in the seed treatment industry and Syngenta’s commitment to environmental stewardship in the countries in which it operates. M&F Packaging is a valuable partner in this initiative, recycling up to 14 tons of plastic containers from the agro-chemical industry each year.

Many thanks to all the contributors to the success of this unique initiative in Zambia and for the continued participation and support of:

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