Recycling Pesticide Containers Made Easy

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Another growing season has begun, and field activities are at full throttle, including spraying equipment moving around fields, golf courses, nurseries, athletic parks, and lawns. Crop protection products are one of many tools used to help protect a plant from pests such as weeds, insects, and diseases. But what happens to all the containers after these products have been used?

Ag Container Recycling Council (ACRC) is a non-profit organization, started in 1992, that works to facilitate the collection and recycling of one-way rigid High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic agricultural crop-protection, specialty pest-control, animal-health, micronutrient/fertilizer, and/or adjuvant product containers. According to the ACRC website, funding is provided by company members that formulate, produce, package, or distribute crop protection and other pesticide products by collecting dues determined by the weight of HDPE plastic they put in the U.S. marketplace annually. Recycled containers are used to manufacture items such as agricultural drainage tile, industrial pallets, pesticide containers, speed bumps, and dock and sea wall pilings.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center and Robeson County Solid Waste are working together to provide seven collection sites at no charge for containers used by farmers and commercial applicators such as golf courses, nurseries, municipalities, pest control, and lawn care companies. The seven designated collection sites are located at:

  • 584 Branch Road, Lumberton
  • 182 Lamb Road, Lumberton
  • 3141 Lowe Road, Lumberton
  • 459 Beaver Dam Road, Maxton
  • 66 Daystorm Drive, Maxton
  • 3096 Midway Road, Maxton
  • 1884 Balance Farm Road, St. Pauls

To be acceptable for recycling, HDPE plastic crop-protection containers up to 55 gallons in size embedded with recycling symbol #2 (or sometimes #7) must be empty, clean, uncapped, and dry. Containers should be cleaned by pressure rinsing or triple-rinsing while emptying the contents into your sprayer tank. Inspect the containers immediately after rinsing to make sure all the formulation has been rinsed out. Be sure to check the pour spout, spout threads, and container walls to make sure they are free of residues that flake, smear, or come off when touched with a glove. Remove all non-HDPE materials such as label booklets, metal rings or handles, and container caps. Discard these items as normal solid waste. Never put caps on cleaned containers. Be sure to keep cleaned containers dry and out of the rain until delivery can be made.

Unfortunately, not all containers can be accepted. Containers that originally held veterinary products, consumer products, or home and garden crop-protection products are not accepted. Keeping crop-protection containers out of your normal household plastic recycling will help prevent them from being used in non-approved end-use products.

Ensuring properly cleaned pesticide containers that are free of booklets, caps, and any liquid inside helps with a smooth drop off at collection sites. Taking the appropriate time to prepare containers avoids the potential for rejection by site attendants or the contractor who will eventually grind the containers for recycling. With these simple tips, pesticide container recycling can really be just that easy.

For more information contact Mac Malloy, County Extension Director and Field Crop Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at (910) 671-3276, by E-mail at