VerenA is the new return system for agricultural bulk bags set up by RIGK and trade associations (left to right: Iryna Hrabenko and Jens Dambeck from RIGK’s VerenA team and Dr Michael Reininger from the German Federation of Rural Cooperatives). Image: RIGK
Agricultural bulk bags for a circular economy
Whether it is seeds, fertilisers or animal feed, farms receive a large amount of items in bulk bags. But what to do with the empty plastic super sacks? After all, agricultural businesses are also affected by extended producer responsibility obligations. The VerenA return scheme was launched in early 2023 specifically for the disposal of used, licensed bulk bags in Germany. The response has been consistently positive to date.
Since spring 2023, the VerenA return scheme has made it possible to recover and recycle bulk bags from the agricultural sector that have been in contact with non-hazardous filling materials. So far, around 200 collection points are available to agricultural end users at farmers’ cooperatives, agricultural supply businesses and conveniently located specialist disposal companies. The plan is to establish 400 VerenA collection points in total, where the licensed, emptied agricultural bulk bags with the VerenA logo can be taken back free of charge on specific dates. These super sacks, also known as flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs), may have previously been filled with products like seeds, feed or fertiliser. The return system was launched by RIGK (Gesellschaft zur Rückführung industrieller und gewerblicher Kunststoffverpackungen mbH) in partnership with trade associations representing the German agricultural industry.
VerenA, the new scheme for taking back agricultural bulk bags, launched back in spring 2023. Image: RIGK
"The roll-out of the VerenA scheme is an important step for sustainability in the agricultural value chain. Plastics are taken back and properly recycled with a view to making them into new products. The close-knit and professionally run network of VerenA locations helps farmers live up to their environmental responsibility without having to put up with an extra burden."
Dr. Michael Reininger, agricultural materials expert, German Federation of Rural Cooperatives (DRV)
The ability to drop off agricultural bulk bags right across Germany is popular among agricultural businesses. In order for the collection campaigns to run smoothly, the FIBCs must be visibly marked with the VerenA label, emptied of any solid or liquid residue and clean on the outside. They can either be handed in rolled up and stuck in shape or inside a bulk bag of their own.
Bulk bags need recycling too. Image: Boxon
By participating in the system, fillers and distributors can meet their return and recycling obligations under Section 15 of Germany’s Packaging Act. The marking with the license label confirms that their bulk bags are approved for handover to the collection points. RIGK then ensures that the super sacks collected are sent to the recycling system in order to be turned into new products, in turn closing the material loop. The aim is now to make the return system even better known and establish it as a fixture in the agricultural sector.
Further collection points sought
Those running the businesses in question see the VerenA scheme’s roll-out as a step in the direction of sustainability and efficient use of resources in German farming. With the progressively increasing use of packaging in agriculture, efficiently recycling bundled plastics manage to create added value and unburden these operators significantly, they report. However, a high degree of homogeneity and having drop-off locations nearby are essential for reusable materials to be recycled successfully. Both are ensured by the carefully targeted methods used for handing over the packaging at locations close to farming communities. The system is financed by those who fill and distribute the packaged products.
"With the collection of emptied bulk bags, we are meeting a need frequently expressed to us by our customers from farms and the agricultural industry. In doing so, we collect the materials where the sector is located – in farming areas and with the help of partners in the agricultural sector. To achieve the high system efficiency that we seek, we are looking for additional agricultural supply businesses throughout Germany to act as collection points for the system. As VerenA partners, these businesses will offer close and convenient ways for the final consumers to take back their empty used packaging. At the same time, they will help make agriculture more sustainable in line with the principle of building a circular economy."