Skip to main content

Pesticide Safety

Go Search
PES Blog
Pesticide Safety > PMEP Content > 21 Disposal  

21 Disposal


As an applicator you have two disposal problems. First you must safely dispose of surplus pesticides concentrated or tank mixed that you have no use for or cannot store. Secondly, you must safely dispose of empty pesticide containers. Careless disposal practices are a common cause of pesticide misuse and environmental contamination. Take the time to dispose of surplus pesticides and empty containers carefully and legally. Never give empty containers away for any purpose.

See Chapters II and III for State and Federal Laws

Licensed Disposal Facility

Goals of This Chapter

  • Learn the importance of preventing pesticide surplus.
  • Know what to do in case you have a pesticide surplus.
  • Understand and learn the steps taken to properly dispose of pesticide containers.
  • Learn proper procedure for triple-rinsing containers and equipment.

Surplus Pesticides

There are several ways in which you can end up with surplus pesticides. The government or the pesticide manufacturer may cancel the registration on the pesticide, or the use may no longer be effective. You may buy more pesticide than you really need or you may have some left in the tank after the job is done. You may have contaminated water left over from cleaning operations, spills, or rinsing. The pesticide may have lost its strength in storage, the container may be damaged, or the label may be missing

Preventing Pesticide Surplus. Although you cannot always avoid having surplus pesticides, there are ways to cut down on pesticide surplus. Always check to make sure that the pesticide is registered by the EPA and your state. Make sure the pesticide is labeled for the pest before you buy it. Recommendations may change and newer chemicals may be better than older ones. The storage period may also exceed the effective shelf life of the product. Estimate your needs and buy only what you need. Do not stockpile materials. This will reduce carryover and the chance of spills, damaged containers, and loss of strength of the pesticide. Always check out the job before you mix the pesticide in the tank. This way you are not faced with the disposal of a tankload of the wrong pesticide for the pest problem. Mix only enough pesticide for the job at hand so that you finish with an empty tank or hopper. Preventing surplus is the best way to take care of your pesticide disposal problem.


What to Do with Surplus Pesticides. If you have pesticides that you cannot use or do not want, you must take steps to safely and legally dispose of them. Pesticides which are still factory-sealed may be re -turned to the manufacturer. Check with the company and see if they will take your surplus back. You may be able to apply the excess pesticide mixture to another site where a pest problem exists and that can be treated with the same pesticide. If possible use the rinsewater from your spray tank in a future spray mix of the same pesticide. Be careful with herbicide-contaminated rinsewater on sensitive plants. Caution must also be exercised with reusing rinsewater in mixtures of other pesticides. It is not legal and may cause illegal food or feed crop residues. Never dispose of pesticide contaminated rinsewater in a manner that will contaminate public or private water sources or sewage treatment facilities.


Farmers who need to dispose of a surplus spray mixture or contaminated rinsewater should do so on their own property, only if it is not prohibited on the label and only in labeled sites. If the manufacturer won't take back your concentrates and/or you cannot use up your pesticides, you must find other safe and legal ways to dispose of your surplus. Other certified applicators might be able to use your pesticide leftovers to control a similar pest problem. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act supports regional "Pesticide Waste Clean Up Days" to properly discard of hazardous material and waste. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency and urge them to have "Pesticide Clean Up Days" if they are not available in your state. If containers begin to leak or are damaged, they should be packed in another container that is appropriately labeled. Store your extra pesticides in a locked storage area while you are waiting to dispose of them. They must be kept in their original containers with the label intact.


Empty Pesticide Containers

Empty pesticide containers are not really "empty." They still contain small amounts of pesticide even after they have been rinsed out properly. Never toss them into streams, ponds, fields, or vacant buildings. Be able to account for every pesticide container you used for the job. Never give them to children to play with or allow uninformed persons to have them for any use. Dispose of all your pesticide containers carefully and properly. You should separate the empty containers for disposal into three main types; those that will burn, those that will not burn, and those that contain mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, or inorganic pesticides. All empty containers for liquids should be rinsed three times before disposal.


When using containers holding liquid formulations:

  • Triple-rinse the container immediately after emptying.
    • Fill the container one-quarter full with the proper diluent (water,
    • oil or liquid fertilizer).
    • Replace the closure or plug the opening of the container.
    • Rotate the container, making sure to rinse all surfaces.
    • Turn the container upside down.
    • Add the rinsate to the spray tank.
    • Allow 30 seconds for rinsate to drain.
    • Repeat this procedure two more times.
  • Puncture the top and bottom of the container to prevent reuse. Crush flat.
  • Deposit the container in a licensed sanitary landfill.


When using containers holding dry formulations:

  • Completely empty the contents of the container into the tank.
  • Open both ends of the container to help remove any remaining pesticide and to prevent reuse of the container.
  • Deposit the container in a licensed sanitary landfill.

When using containers holding aerosol formulations:

  • Relieve pressure as much as possible. Do not puncture the container.
  • Deposit the container in a licensed sanitary landfill.


Triple-rinsed containers that will be held for disposal at a later time should be marked to indicate that triple-rinsing has been done along with the date. Pesticide containers that will not be recycled through a recycling facility or the dealer should be rendered unusable by breaking, puncturing, or crushing. Never reuse pesticide containers. All containers should be kept in a locked storage area until disposal and kept away from all possible contact with children and animals.

Burnable Containers are usually cardboard or paper. Only with state approval and permission on the label can containers be burned. Never burn containers that hold 2,4-D type weed killers. The smoke from such a fire could cause serious damage to nearby plants and trees. Large quantities of burnable containers should be held for proper disposal. Check local, state, and federal regulations. Federal laws that govern incineration are; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Clean Air Act.


Non-Burnable Containers are usually metal, glass, or plastic. Some of these may be returned to the manufacturer for reuse. Before you ship back the containers, reseal them carefully and wash off the outside completely. Metal drums that cannot be returned can be crushed with a backhoe, front end loader, truck, or tractor. Store them in a locked storage area for disposal. Glass containers may be carefully broken and stored. Plastic containers may be cut apart to take up less room.


Containers that held organic or inorganic pesticides with mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic have special disposal requirements. Improper disposal could create serious environmental pollution and long term health hazards. The label will specify legal disposal methods. Special methods such as encapsulation may be necessary for their safe disposal. Encapsulation means to seal the pesticide and "empty" con -tainer in a sturdy, waterproof container so that the contents cannot possibly get out. Check federal and state regulations for disposal of these containers. If you need to store these empty containers while waiting to dispose of them, they can be crushed and stored in a locked storage area.


If they are emptied and stored in larger drums, keep these containers separate from drums that hold regular non-burnable pesticide containers. Burial in designated hazardous waste landfills and incineration in specially designed, extremely high temperature incinerators are often the only acceptable legal methods for pesticide waste disposal. You are responsible for the costs of packing the pesticides for shipment, transportation, disposal fees from the facility, and the chemical analysis if the exact identity and concentration of the unwanted substances are unknown. Do not burn empty containers which held mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic or inorganic pesticides. Cardboard and paper containers of this type should be crushed and stored for future disposal.


Methods for the Disposal of Pesticides and Pesticide Containers

Disposal of pesticides and their containers can be a problem. They should be returned to the manufacturer whenever possible. Otherwise, you must choose the method which is best for you and still protects others and the environment. Federal and state laws may require that you use certain methods when disposing of specific pesticides.

Incineration. Burning pesticides and containers in special, high temperature incinerators is one safe method of disposal. These incinerators are specially designed so that the pesticides will be reduced to harmless gases and solid ashes. This special incineration method is often only carried out in EPA-approved landfill facilities. It is a safer and more reliable disposal method than ordinary incineration. To find the pesticide incinerator that is nearest to your operation, contact your county extension agent, state college or university, state regulatory officials, or your regional Environmental Protection Agency office.

Burial. The least preferred option for pesticide waste disposal. It is no longer listed on any pesticide label as a disposal option. It is only legal if specifically allowed by state or local laws. Because it is difficult to tell if a burial site is close to underground water sources, there is always the possibility of chemicals leaching through soils and polluting subsurface waters and groundwater. Surface and underground water systems should be carefully protected. Check to see if there is a special pesticide landfill in your area. Do not bury pesticides or containers that contained mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, or inorganic pesticides. Although encapsulation of buried containers prevents chemicals from leaching through the soil, once a hazardous material is buried, its fate in the environment is never clear. State or federal regulatory officials should be contacted if pesticide waste is disposed of by burial.


Take the extra time and effort to dispose of surplus pesticides and empty containers properly in licensed facilities. It is well worth your effort!

Last modified at 10/31/2008 1:03 AM  by CCEWEB\ak678