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Pesticide Waste Disposal

Fig. 1 Pesticide container “Storage and Disposal” instructions on a pesticide label. Coyle, David Ph.D., Clemson Extension

Fig. 1 Pesticide container “Storage and Disposal” instructions on a pesticide label.
David Coyle, Ph.D., Clemson Extension

Before using any pesticide, it is essential to read the entire product label. The label has key safety instructions to protect the applicator before, during, and after pesticide use. Directions for household pesticide waste disposal can vary widely from product to product. Take special care to read each product’s specific instructions to dispose of pesticide waste properly (Fig. 1). Failure to do so can create serious hazards for the user and environment.

Pesticide waste includes empty pesticide containers, leftover pesticide mixture from an earlier application, and unused pesticide in the original container. Even though pesticide waste disposal procedures are product-specific, some pesticide waste guidelines are important to always keep in mind.

Disposing of A Pesticide Container

  • NEVER pour leftover pesticide products down the sink, into the toilet, on the ground, or down a sewer or storm drain when the pesticide label instructs the user to rinse the container. Pesticides may pollute waterways and harm fish, plants, and other living things.
  • Never reuse pesticide containers for any purpose. When empty, immediately triple-rinse (Fig. 2) or pressure-rinse (Fig. 3) the container. Then, dispose of the container according to label instructions.
  • Never puncture or burn a pressurized or aerosol container; it could explode.
  • The containers of general-use pesticides commonly found at home improvement stores may not be recycled in MOST community recycling programs. Do not recycle any pesticide containers unless the recycling program expressly accepts pesticide containers. Carefully follow the program’s instructions for preparing the empty containers for collection.
Fig. 2 This illustrates the triple rinse procedure for plastic pesticide containers. Image used with permission from Fred Whitford, Purdue University

Fig. 2 This illustrates the triple rinse procedure for plastic pesticide containers.
Image used with permission from Fred Whitford, Purdue University

Triple Rinsing Procedure Steps

Step 1) While wearing protective equipment, pour excess pesticide into the sprayer.

Step 2) Fill pesticide container ¼ full of clean water, replace the cap, and shake the container.

Step 3) Pour rinse water into the sprayer.

Step 4) Repeat two more times, shaking the container in different directions. Pour rinse water into the sprayer.

Step 5) Rinse the outside of the pesticide container. Dispose of the cap as regular household waste and dispose of the container according to local regulations.

Step 6) Spray the diluted rinse water (rinsate) left in the sprayer according to the label directions.

Fig. 3 This illustration the pressure-rinsing procedure for plastic pesticide containers. Image used with permission from Fred Whitford, Purdue University

Fig. 3 This illustration the pressure-rinsing procedure for plastic pesticide containers.
Image used with permission from Fred Whitford, Purdue University

Pressure-Rinsing Procedure Steps

Step 1) While wearing PPE, empty the contents of the container into the spray tank, turning the container so that any product trapped in the handle is allowed to flow out.

Step 2) Once the flow is down to a drip, allow the container to drain for an additional 30 seconds. Immediately begin rinsing procedures, or the product may become difficult to remove.

Step 3) Hold the container so the opening can drain into the spray tank.

Step 4) Force the tip of the pressure nozzle through the lower portion of the side closest to the handle.

Step 5) Connect the nozzle to a clean water source of at least 40 psi. Turn the nozzle inside the container to assure good coverage of all sides, including the handle.

Step 6) Rinse for at least 30 seconds. Drain all rinse water (rinsate) into the spray tank. Use rinsate immediately on a labeled site or store rinsate in a jug, clearly marked, to be used in the next spray with that pesticide.

Steps 7) Dispose of container in landfill or recycling, depending on what is specified by the label.

Disposing of Excess Pesticide Mixture

Avoid leftover pesticide mixtures by carefully calculating and measuring the amount of pesticide required for each application. Apply the excess mixture on the intended application site according to the label directions. Do not store the excess mixture in sprayers for later use. This can cause harmful effects such as deterioration of sprayer parts.

Disposing of Unused Pesticide in the Original Container

Some lawn pesticide products (i.e., weed-control products) or indoor-use insecticides come in a single-use hose-end sprayer. These ready-to-use products do not need to be diluted, and there is no good way to dispose of the rinse water. Do not try to open these containers; follow label instructions for proper disposal.

State and local laws regarding pesticide disposal may be stricter than the federal requirements on the label. For example, in South Carolina, burning or incinerating any pesticide container, including those made of paper or cardboard and bags which contained premixed fertilizer and pesticide products, is prohibited. Before disposing of leftover pesticides and pesticide containers, be sure to check with your local Clemson Extension Office, local solid waste authority, South Carolina Department of Agriculture, or the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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