Cleaning, Recycling, and Disposing of Agricultural Pesticide Containers

Unrinsed or contaminated empty pesticide containers are considered hazardous waste, unless a pesticide distributor or manufacturer will accept them for refilling. Hazardous waste is more difficult and more expensive to dispose of than solid waste.

Clean, dry containers are considered solid waste and can be disposed of in a state-permitted solid waste site. Clean, dry containers may be recycled and it is recommended that the containers are recycled through the state pesticide container recycling program. Only dry, properly rinsed containers are accepted at collection sites, so thoroughly rinse all residues from the containers immediately after use. Properly rinsing and handling empty pesticide containers is very important, because it:

  • Protects humans by removing hazardous materials
  • Prevents sources of environmental contamination
  • Saves money by putting all product into the spray tank

How to Properly Clean Pesticide Containers

A website with helpful container-rinsing information:

Think Safety!

Unrinsed pesticide containers still can hold enough material to harm people and the environment. The person cleaning the containers should observe these precautions:

  • Read and understand all safety and environmental precautions on the pesticide label.
  • Wear eye protection such as goggles or a face shield.
  • Wear chemical-resistant gloves that will neither absorb pesticide or rinse water, nor let the material contact the skin.
  • Wear chemical-resistant apron, gloves, and footwear, or chemical-resistant covers over shoes or boots.

The best way to dispose of rinsate is to add it in the spray mixture and apply it according to the label directions. Rinsate also can be collected for later use in a spray mix or for disposal. Do not mix different pesticide rinsates. Label each storage container clearly. Do not dump rinsate on the ground or into storm drains.

Triple/Multiple Rinsing

Plastic and metal containers (jugs)

  • Empty the container's contents into a spray tank, turning the container so that any product trapped in the handle can flow out. Once flow is down to a drip, drain the container an additional 30 seconds.
  • Immediately begin rinsing. Do not wait, or the product may become difficult to remove.
  • Fill the empty container one-quarter full of clean water.
  • Replace the cap on the container. With the container opening facing to your left, shake the container about 6 inches left to right. Shake the container about twice per second for 30 seconds.
  • Drain rinse water into spray tank as described above.
  • Fill the empty container one-quarter full of clean water a second time.
  • Recap the container. With the opening of the container pointed toward the ground, shake the container about 6 inches up and down. Then drain the rinse water into the spray tank.
  • Finally, fill the empty container one-quarter full for a third time with clean water. Recap the container. With the container in the normal upright position, shake the container about 6 inches up and down. Pour the rinse water into the spray tank.
  • Carefully rinse residue from the outside of the container into the spray tank.
  • Carefully rinse cap over spray tank opening.
  • Look closely at the container inside and out to make sure that all pesticide has been removed.
  • Allow the containers to dry.
  • Store cleaned jugs and caps where they will be protected from rain until they can be recycled or disposed of properly.
  • Oregon requires that 1- and 5-gallon metal containers be punctured at least three times with 1-inch holes and then crushed.
  • Oregon law requires rinsing the containers as many times as is necessary with an appropriate diluent (solvent) to get the container clean.

Drums

  • Empty the drum as much as possible.
  • Fill the drum one-quarter full with water. Replace and tighten bungs.
  • Tip the drum on its side and roll it back and forth, ensuring at least one complete revolution, for 30 seconds.
  • Stand the drum on its end and tip it back and forth several times to rinse the corners.
  • Turn the drum over on its other end and repeat this procedure.
  • Carefully empty the rinsate into the spray tank.
  • Repeat this procedure until the rinse water runs clear.
  • Carefully rinse cap over spray tank opening, then dispose of it appropriately, as regular solid waste.
  • Look closely at the containers inside and out to make sure all pesticide has been removed.
  • Puncture the base of the drum with a drill so it cannot be reused.
  • Allow drum to dry.
  • Store drums where they will be protected from rain until they can be recycled or disposed of properly.
  • Oregon requires that the tops and bottoms of 30- and 55-gallon containers be removed and the containers flattened after they have dried.
  • Oregon law requires persons cleaning pesticide containers to rinse the containers as many times as is necessary with an appropriate diluent (solvent) to get the container clean.

Pressure Rinsing

This method continuously washes the inside of the container and drains into the spray tank. A pressure nozzle punctures and rinses the container in one step. It is easier and more effective than triple/multiple rinsing.

Containers (jugs)

  • Empty contents of container into a spray tank, turning the container so that any product trapped in the handle can flow out. Once flow is down to a drip, drain the container an additional 30 seconds.
  • Immediately begin rinsing. Do not wait, or the product may become difficult to remove.
  • Hold the container so the opening can drain into the spray tank.
  • Force the tip of the pressure nozzle through the lower portion of the side closest to the handle.
  • Connect nozzle to a clean water source of at least 40 psi. Rotate the nozzle inside the container to assure good coverage of all sides, including the handle.
  • Rinse at least 30 seconds.
  • Rinse cap under water coming out of the jug and into the spray tank and then dispose of cap appropriately as regular solid waste.
  • Drain all rinse water into the spray tank.
  • Look closely at the containers inside and out to make sure that all pesticide has been removed.
  • Allow container to dry.
  • Store cleaned jugs and caps where they will be protected from rain until they can be recycled or disposed of properly.
  • Oregon requires that an appropriate solvent be used for rinsing and that 1- and 5-gallon metal containers be punctured at least three times with 1-inch holes and then crushed.

Drums

  • Be sure the drum is completely empty.
  • Drill a pilot hole in the bottom of the drum and then position the drum mouth over the spray tank so that rinse water will empty directly into the tank.
  • With the water turned off, use the pressure rinse nozzle to widen the hole in the bottom.
  • Turn water on and rotate the nozzle inside the drum to rinse all sides.
  • Rinse drum at least 30 seconds or until rinse water runs completely clear.
  • Rinse cap under water coming out of the drum and into the spray can, then dispose of it appropriately, as regular solid waste.
  • Turn water off and replace the tip guard on the nozzle.
  • Look closely at the container inside and out to make sure all pesticide has been removed.
  • Allow containers to dry.
  • Store drums where they will be protected from rain until they can be recycled or disposed of properly.
  • Oregon requires use of an appropriate solvent for rinsing, and requires the tops and bottoms of 30- and 55-gallon drums be removed and the containers flattened after they have dried.

Cleaning Paper or Plastic Sacks and Fiber Containers

  • Empty the contents completely into the application equipment. You may need to cut open the container to clean out all the material in the seams. Never rip the container; use scissors or a knife but not a personal pocketknife. Do not let material blow around.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including breathing protection if necessary.
  • If possible, rinse the container. Some containers have plastic or foil liners that can be rinsed. Use the rinsate in the spray mixture or collect it for disposal.
  • Once the containers are clean, dispose of them as regular solid waste. Do not burn the containers. Burning can release poisonous fumes and is illegal.

Recycling Procedures for Plastic Containers

Disposal and Recycling

Proper disposal or recycling of pesticide containers helps to protect the environment and helps promote a positive image of agrichemical users. Recycling also saves money for the pesticide user and for local landfills.

Landfill Procedures

Landfills accept only containers that have been cleaned. Some landfills inspect containers and/or require written verification of their cleanliness. Disposal site locations are listed below.

Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have programs to collect and recycle clean plastic pesticide containers. The following steps will help in the recycling process. For times and places of recycling events, see the appropriate state contact listed below.

  • Only clean, dry plastic containers can be accepted.
  • Remove slip-on labels and label booklets. Glued labels may stay.
  • Remove hard plastic lids and place them in a separate container for recycling.
  • Remove most of the foil seal from around the opening of the container. A small amount of foil is acceptable.
  • Remove lids and metal bails from 5-gallon buckets. Lids from buckets are accepted if metal rings and rubber gaskets are removed. Containers of 5 gallons and smaller are accepted whole.
  • Do not put plastic lids back on empty containers. This inhibits container inspections.