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Pesticide Safety Education Program

Preparing Pesticide Containers for Recycling

Why should I recycle?

When you recycle empty pesticide containers, you are helping to protect the environment by diverting potential waste to the production of useful products. Furthermore, you are helping to reduce the spread of your local landfills.

Plastic from pesticide containers can be recycled into a number of products including pallets, new pesticide containers, fuel for cement kilns, fence posts, roadside sign posts, guard rails, drainage tile, sewage tile and hazardous waste drums.

If available and feasible, the following packaging or formulation technology will help to avoid pesticide container disposal issues.

  • Water soluble packets,
  • Refillable/returnable containers,
  • Direct injection application systems.

Where can I recycle my pesticide containers?

During the growing season, the Illinois Department of Agriculture offers numerous container collection sites; some are single-day sites and others are permanent. For an annual brief on where to bring your containers for recycling, please write to:

Illinois Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Environmental Programs
State Fairgrounds
P.O. Box 19281
Springfield, lL, 62794-9281

or call:

Pesticide Hot Line: 1-800-641-3934
FAX: 217-524-4882

Please remember, the recycling program will only accept clean, dry, high density polyethylene (HDPE) #2 plastic pesticide containers.

How do I prepare my pesticide containers for recycling?

Rinsing right after use is the best way to ensure a clean container. Depending on what system fits your operation, you can either triple rinse or pressure rinse your containers. Your local agricultural chemical dealer can give you more information about pressurized rinse systems.

Triple Rinsing

  1. Fill the empty container about 20% full with water.
  2. Replace cap securely and shake the contents to rinse all inside surfaces.
  3. Pour rinse water into spray tank and drain for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 twice more until container is clean.
  5. Inspect the container (inside and out) for formulation residues. Repeat as needed.

Pressure Rinsing

  1. Use a special nozzle attached to a water hose.
  2. Hold the container upside down over the spray tank with the cap removed. Puncture side of container with the pointed nozzle.
  3. Pressurized water cleans the inside surfaces while the rinsate flows into the spray tank.
  4. Rinse for 30 seconds or longer while rotating the nozzle to rinse all surfaces.
  5. Inspect the container (inside and out) for formulation residues. Repeat as needed.

Inspection checklist for recycling plastic pesticide containers

  • PROTECTION: Always wear protective clothing while rinsing containers.
  • EMPTY: Completely empty the pesticide container.
  • LEAN: Triple rinse or pressure rinse the container immediately after use to prevent drying/ caking of formulation residues.
  • INSPECT: Inspect the container inside and around the spout threads to ensure that it is free of formulation residues. Clean, but stained (e.g., due to Treflan) containers are acceptable.
  • REMOVE: Discard the cap, foil seal, and label from the container since they will not be accepted for recycling.
  • PUNCTURE: Render the container unusable by puncturing it.
  • TYPE: Only containers made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) #2 plastic are acceptable for recycling.
  • KEEP CONTAINER DRY: The recycler will not accept a container with liquid in it - keep containers out of the rain.


Urbana, Illinois
August, 1996


Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work, Acts of May 8 and June, 1914, in cooperation with the U. S. Department of agriculture. DENNIS R. CAMPION, Interim Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Illinois Cooperative Extension Service provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. The information provided in this publication is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names do not constitute an endorsement by the University of Illinois and does not imply discrimination against other similar products.

Prepared by Bruce Paulsrud, Extension Specialist. Department of Crop Sciences.