10. November 2023
Lake Constance, with its breathtaking natural scenery and fertile agriculture, is undoubtedly a jewel in the heart of Europe. This region, encompassing Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is renowned for its fruit and wine production, which is valued not only locally but also internationally. However, to protect the crops from the unpredictable whims of the weather, many farmers rely on hail protection nets. While these nets undoubtedly have benefits, they also raise the question of how best to recycle them to minimize the environmental impact of fruit farming. As part of a cooperative project, RIGK GmbH has teamed up with the Lake Constance Fruit Market Community from Friedrichshafen to recycle no longer-needed hail protection nets.
The Importance of Hail Protection in the Lake Constance Region
The Lake Constance region is known for its delicate crops, such as apples, pears, cherries, and grapes. A sudden hailstorm can cause devastating damage to these crops in a short time, jeopardizing the livelihoods of many farmers. To protect their fruits, farmers use hail protection nets that are stretched over the fruit trees and grapevines. These nets are highly effective and have proven to be an effective method of minimizing hail damage. Mr. Gunnar Weise from the Lake Constance Fruit Market Community eG explains the importance of hail protection nets: "Secured fruit farming without hail protection nets is simply inconceivable. In addition, the hail protection nets have the added benefit of protecting the fruit from sunburn in times of steadily rising temperatures; the darker the nets, the greater this protective effect."
The Challenge of Recycling Hail Protection Nets
Since 2017, the successful collaboration between RIGK GmbH and the Lake Constance Fruit Market Community has resulted in an average of 50 to 80 tons of nets being recycled annually. In total, over 300 tons of hail protection nets have already been recycled. Gunnar Weise states on the system's beginnings: "We simply had no way to dispose of the nets, so we are all the more pleased that the nets are now being returned to the cycle through the cooperation with RIGK and recycled into new products." However, a somewhat more elaborate treatment is necessary to recycle the no longer-used hail protection nets. The nets are rolled up and compressed into bales to reduce volume and minimize transport costs. The hail protection nets, made of the material HDPE, must be collected separately and are not without challenges for recycling companies. They take up a large volume with low weight. The nets are processed into a dark regranulate, which is then returned to the material cycle.
"The collaboration with RIGK is really very partnership-based, and I can only praise the disposal companies and the participating farmers. The farmers collect the hail protection nets very separately, and the collection runs smoothly," Weise continues.
Depending on the quantities involved, RIGK's contracted disposal companies provide the farmer with a container directly and then pick it up again. The farmers can drop off quantities under 1 ½ tons at a collection station. The Lake Constance Fruit Market Community eG offers the collection and recycling of hail protection nets at a self-cost contribution.
The project for the collection and recycling of hail protection nets in the Lake Constance region once again shows how important and ultimately beneficial the cooperation of various partners is. Finally, everyone benefits, the users of the hail protection nets and the environment. In the next step, the producers of the nets are to join the ERDE initiative (Crop Plastics Recycling Germany) to contribute to the successful return and thus further reduce the costs for processing the nets for the user.
"In summary, the recycling of hail protection nets in the Lake Constance region is not only an ecological necessity but also an opportunity to integrate local participants in the material chain and establish the region as a sustainable role model," concludes Gunnar Weise.
For questions about the cooperation, please contact: