LINCOLN, Neb. — Pesticides (such as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) are critical tools for pest management, both in the agricultural realm and outside it. However, these tools must be handled with care — from purchase to disposal — in order to reap their benefits while minimizing their risks.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, tens of millions of pounds of pesticides are applied in Nebraska each year. That translates to a lot of empty plastic pesticide containers. The Nebraska Pesticide Container Recycling Program, now in its 32nd year, provides a way for the state’s private and commercial applicators to safely and responsibly dispose of their pesticide containers, free of charge.
The program accepts only containers that held pesticides for crop, ornamental/turf, forestry, aquatic and public health pest control. Also accepted are containers that held crop oils, surfactants and adjuvants. Containers that held consumer pesticides (e.g., home and garden products) are not accepted through this program. (Some cities or counties offer household hazardous waste disposal events for these types of products.)
All collection sites accept one- and 2.5-gallon plastic containers. Some sites also accept 15-, 30- and 55-gallon plastic drums. Check the list of sites for site-specific details.
A list of container collection sites can be found on Nebraska Extension’s Pesticide Safety Education Program website. Please note each site’s collection schedule.
Preparing Containers for Drop-Off
Collection site managers thoroughly inspect containers before accepting them, so if you plan to recycle containers, be sure to prepare them beforehand.
Before dropping them off at a collection site, you must triple rinse or pressure rinse each container according to label directions. It is best to do this at the time of the application, as rinsate can be safely added to a tank load and used as spray. Delayed rinsing can result in dried residue in containers that is difficult to remove. The NebGuide, Rinsing Pesticide Containers (G1736), details the purpose, benefits and process of rinsing containers.
With the exception of materials that are glued to containers, remove and discard any labels, booklets and slipcover plastic. Caps cannot be recycled; rinse all caps and discard them as regular trash.
Recycling is the most sustainable, environmentally friendly method of pesticide container disposal. The plastic from recycled containers is used to make industry-approved products such as pallets, drain tile, underground utility conduit, landscape edging and nursery pots. Instead of adding them to a landfill, consider recycling your empty pesticide containers this year.
— Greg Puckett, Extension Assistant; Jennifer Weisbrod, Pesticide Safety Education Program Coordinator, Extension Educator
University of Nebraska-Lincoln