What does "PRE" stand for and what exactly is taken back via the PRE-SYSTEM?
PRE® stands for " agricultural crop protection products recovery and recyling" (Pflanzenschutzmittel-Rücknahme und Entsorgung) and is an initiative of the Industrieverband Agrar e. V. (IVA), the German agricultural industry association, which represents the interests of the agrochemical industry in Germany.
In principle, all crop protection products and other agricultural chemicals that are no longer usable can be delivered to PRE. Why these are unusable is basically irrelevant. One of the main reasons is, for example, that the use of active substances has been banned in the EU for years or that the approval of active substances has expired. Another reason for returning them may be that the minimum shelf life of a crop protection product has been exceeded, similar to the situation with foodstuffs. In this case, the products must not be sold any longer.
The PRE-SYSTEM is also open for other agrochemicals such as paints, fats, oils or cleaning agents; however, these substances amount to less than 10% of the total return.
The most difficult materials in the return are heavy metal-containing arsenic/lead or mercury-containing materials, due to the observance of special safety measures. These materials represent a special challenge in the health and environmentally friendly destruction in the interim stores for special waste material.
Who can participate in the PRE-SYSTEM? What is the cost of the delivery?
The PRE-SYSTEM is open to all commercial, private or industrial deliverers. Typically, these are mostly agricultural wholesalers, farmers, nurseries, wineries or even the producers themselves. The disposal currently costs the deliverer € 2.95 per kilogram; we have been able to keep this price stable for the last five years.
However, for larger quantities, such as half a ton or more, we also offer individual recycling services throughout the year and nationwide, which are carried out and invoiced individually depending on the specific case.
How did the PRE-SYSTEM come into being?
The forerunner of the PRE-SYSTEM was a unique nationwide project in 2006, also initiated by the IVA. At that time, there was a growing awareness that many agricultural pesticides in Germany had become unusable, partly as a result of the German reunification. This special campaign was surprisingly successful, considering that it was a fee-based recovery system project. Encouraged by this experience, and also by the voluntary commitment of the chemical industry under the heading "Responsible Care", the IVA created return options for the proper disposal of old stocks. In 2013, the campaign started under the name PRE.
As of 2016, RIGK acquired the rights of use for PRE, and has since then been carrying out the collections at its own expense and responsibility.
You mentioned the collection dates. Where exactly do the collections take place? And how does the classic procedure of such a collection work?
The recovery often takes place at agricultural wholesalers, one-day by means of chemical mobiles. Customers can thus drop off their end-of-life products at the same place where they bought them or will buy new ones. In some cases, collections are also carried out in intermediate storage facilities. The intermediate warehouses, directly at the waste disposal company sites, have the advantage of being able to react very flexibly, depending on the rush, the quantity, the individual chemical properties and other "contingencies". Basically, the PRE-SYSTEM is a bring system, which means that the end-user transports his material himself to the collection place, where it is then checked, weighed and roughly sorted - according to aggregate state and hazard classes. Only after inspection and issuance of a waste legislation acceptance certificate does the system assume responsibility for the material. At the end of such a collection day, re-sorting takes place. The aim here is to achieve a higher utilization rate in the provision in barrels and means of transport. In the final stage, the contaminated materials are sent directly to waste incinerators for special waste material within Germany.
The individual locations of the collections are very selectively chosen across Germany. Why is that?
Yes, that's right; a maximum of 10 collection points will be set up, with a maximum of one per state. This is because the material flows are bundled in this way. This also minimizes the costs of collecting, providing, transporting and disposing of the material.
There is no statutory recovery obligation for the recovery of end-of-life chemicals; in contrast, for example, to the classic industrial recovery systems for empty used packaging. PRE is a voluntary system offer, so there is no financier, hence the system must be financed exclusively by the cost contributions of the deliverers.
As you already mentioned, the delivered materials are exclusively incinerated. So there is no recycling quote for the PRE-SYSTEM either. Is there a general return rate?
No, there is no recycling quota for the PRE-SYSTEM, since it is exclusively for the safe and harmless destruction of contaminated materials. It is also difficult to give a concrete return rate for PRE-SYSTEM, because the material returned is mostly decades old and has no relation to the current sales figures for agrochemicals.
However, to give an order of magnitude: up to and including 2021, a total of 1,030 tons of old stocks of unusable pesticides and agrochemicals were recovered by more than 10,500 participants via PRE-SYSTEM and the predecessor projects, disposed in an environmentally sound manner and thus removed from the material flow.
What are the biggest challenges for the PRE-SYSTEM?
The entire disposal chain, from the collection to the incineration of the contaminated sites, is - for good reason - closely covered by laws and regulations from the legislator and is also monitored accordingly, which presents a challenge for all involved in operating and carrying out the process.
For example, when collecting and storing the material, regulations from the Chemicals and Water Acts with the associated technical rules must be observed; during transport, the European Convention on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, and during disposal, the Closed Substance Cycle Act in conjunction with further waste management law verification and monitoring ordinances must be observed.
How did you personally come to RIGK and the PRE-SYSTEM? What is your personal history?
I started at RIGK at the end of 1999, shortly before the introduction of the RIGK-G-SYSTEM (Gefahrstoff=hazardous [packaging]) which was established in 2000. Before joining RIGK, I graduated with a degree in chemistry in Aachen in 1989 and subsequently worked in other companies, also in the fields of hazardous and accidental substances.
What do you personally enjoy most about working with PRE-SYSTEM and what are your personal goals for the system in future?
For me, the big goal at PRE is to operate a system that must ultimately prove to be practical for customers, legally compliant and, of course, economical for RIGK. The cooperation of all parties involved is very important. Starting with the manufacturers of agrochemicals, the end- and final consumers, the waste disposal companies and ending with the supervisory authorities of the federal states. We have implemented this well so far, and of course we want to keep it that way in the future. At the same time, these are also the components that I particularly enjoy about working with PRE. The RIGK-Systems are - to put it flippantly - not "featherbedding", but a pragmatic, down-to-earth thing, based on good cooperation with all parties involved and an end result where you can see the actual and immediate benefit: in the case of the PRE-SYSTEM, this is the safe collection and legally compliant destruction of chemical contaminated sites, so that they can cause no further harm to people and the environment in the future.
PRE is a registered trademark of Industrieverband Agrar e.V., Frankfurt am Main, Germany