Crop protection industry leaders are asking EPA to adopt a formal rule requiring the recycling of empty, disposable plastic pesticide containers used in agricultural and professional applications in the United States.

Farmers have been voluntarily recycling empty pesticide containers for years with the help of companies that have been organized to receive, grind and transport the plastic residue to end users. (Mississippi was one of the first states to adopt such a voluntary program in the 1990s.)

But officials with CropLife America, the organization that represents pesticide manufacturers in the United States, says such voluntary programs are in danger of collapsing if EPA doesn’t step in to help expand them.

“Voluntary efforts taken by the industry since the early 1990s to collect and recycle such containers have demonstrated the clear benefit to the environment and public health,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America.

“Now it is time to have a regulatory requirement placed on all affected pesticide registrants to both expand the reach of the current voluntary programs and spread the financial responsibility among all the benefiting pesticide companies,” said Vroom. “Without such a rule, the voluntary program is headed for collapse.”

EPA needs to act to preserve and expand the initiative, said Vroom. He met with EPA Administrator Steve Johnson to urge action on the association’s request by Jan. 15, 2008, which could lead to a finalized rule by July 15 next year.

“CropLife America members have invested more than $50 million in supporting voluntary collection and recycling programs since the early 1990s,” he said. “That cash investment has been supported with the sweat equity of farmers, other professional pesticide users, dealers and many others in proper collection of empty containers.

“But our efforts to get all pesticide registrants to pay their fair share of the cost of voluntary programs have failed, and the only way to keep our progress in place and growing is to require all registrant companies to support recycling if they benefit from access to the market via disposable, one-way HDPE plastic containers.”

During the meeting with the EPA’s Johnson, Vroom said CropLife America presented copies of more than 50 grassroots letters, which endorse the agency proceeding with such a recycling regulation.

“The support is clear and in writing from state governors, state pesticide regulators, state departments of agriculture, commodity and farm groups and registrants — everyone wants to see the success of the voluntary programs preserved and extended. We know of no one who stands in opposition to EPA moving forward.”

CLA has emphasized a new pesticide regulatory requirement would only apply to pesticide containers. “The proposed rule would be done under the auspices of the U.S. pesticide law, thereby focusing this recycling requirement only on such containers,” Vroom said.

“Further, such a regulation can be effective because it would be monitored by EPA in two ways — first, by requiring annual reporting by registrants of their individual support of recycling programs, commensurate with their marketing of pesticides in disposable plastic containers, and secondly, by way of checking on the proper rinsing of all empty containers — as currently required under existing pesticide regulation.”

CLA asked EPA for a prompt response so the association can, in turn, assess its full legal and policy options should the agency deny the request for regulatory extension of the current voluntary recycling system.

e-mail: flaws@farmpress.com