Closing the Loop: Pipelife Introduces Drip Line Collection and Recycling Service for Farmers in the Balkans

22. May 2024 | 6 min read

Drip irrigation allows reducing water and fertilizer use as well as power consumption while securing high yields even in water-stressed areas. Yet, handling used drip lines still remains a challenge for many European farmers. After two successful trial seasons, Pipelife now offers a free drip pipe collection and discount program to all its customers in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania.

Installing of drip lines at "Dumbrava Agro Nik" | Pipelife

From Waste to Opportunity

In 2023, Pipelife collected more than 90 tons of used drip lines from customers across Romania. The initiative was an expansion of several smaller-scale pilot projects carried out the year before — and the start of extending the recycling program to more Balkan countries in 2024. 

“Drip irrigation pipes are typically used seasonally, and in several countries, handling them, once the season is over, remains solely on farmers’ shoulders,” says Dusan Jankovic, Irrigation Systems Business Development Manager at Pipelife. “As farmers lack the equipment and finances to organize recollection and recycling of the used pipes on their own, drip lines tend to end up in the warehouses, local landfills or simply get burned.”

While thicker drip lines, suitable for multiseasonal use, exist, they are less common due to much higher costs and reduced flexibility for farmers. Increasingly unpredictable climate, crop price fluctuations and environmental requirements, such as crop rotation, mean that most farmers must alter their irrigation setup yearly.  

Three years ago, when Pipelife started offering its end-to-end irrigation services in Romania, the team reached out to customers and partners asking if they would be interested in participating in a recycling scheme. The idea was received with overwhelming enthusiasm, and Pipelife’s R&D and Irrigation teams put heads together to create a recollection and recycling service that would benefit all sides involved.

Leading watermelon producers and wholesalers in Ialomita County, Romania

A Customer Story: Farmer Shares His Experience with the Drip Line Recollection Program

One of the participants in the drip line recycling trial in 2023 was Gheorghe Doja, an agricultural cooperative situated in Ialomita County, Romania. The cooperative specializes in watermelon production, offers consultations, and sells farming equipment to its more than 200 members.

“Utilizing the drip lines once the season is over was a major challenge for our cooperative,” admits Ionel Carstoiu, one of the founders of Gheorghe Doja. “Last year alone, we had 125 ha of watermelons planted, which means a lot of irrigation pipes. There used to be a couple of local companies that offered to take old drip lines, but none of them operated for long.”

In total, more than 40 tons of drip lines were recollected from Gheorghe Doja and its partners in 2023. All collected pipes are washed, shredded and eventually recycled into new Pipelife products.

“We were excited yet cautiously optimistic when we first heard of this opportunity,” says Carstoiu. “Now, after the first season, we feel delighted that we no longer have to think of handling the drip pipes and that they’re taken care of in an environmentally friendly way.”


Even More Recycled Pipes: Future Plans

From 2024, Pipelife’s drip line recycling program covers customers not only in Romania but also in Bulgaria and Croatia. Even more, all participating farmers will receive a discount for their next season’s irrigation setup, and this prerogative is contractually guaranteed.

“If we collect 10 tons of pipes from a farmer, we will offer a discount for purchasing up to 10 tons next year,” sums up Jankovic. “This way, we can offer sustainable irrigation solutions at a better price to local farmers, ensure that drip lines don’t end up in the environment, and we can support the production of new circular products. Everyone wins in the end.”

As the farmers’ interest in the new service continues to grow, Pipelife is already looking into extending the recycling scheme to even more markets in 2025.

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