Thousands of pesticide tanks are distributed to producers in the United States each year, but only a small percentage are returned for recycling or refilling. This is starting to create storage issues on farms and the potential for more stringent regulation down the road, according to Ples Spradley, Extension professor at the University of Arkansas and a speaker at a recent webinar on caged tanks.

Spradley, who coordinates the Pesticide Safety Education Program for training and certifying pesticide applicators at UA, says this doesn’t need to be the case. There are simple procedures for preparing tanks for recycling and/or refilling and several programs for picking up the containers at no cost.

You can see the webinar in its entirety here, Rinsing and Recycling Caged Tanks. The webinarwas sponsored by The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance, Bayer CropScience, IBC North America, Interstate Ag Plastics, Monsanto, NCG and TankLink.

The webinar is designed to help growers and other end users with the management of caged tanks. All the information in the webinar can also be found on the TPSA Web site, www.tpsalliance.org.

One of the biggest reasons why producers should make a concerted effort to follow good stewardship practices with pesticide containers are the Environmental Protection Agency’s Container and Containment Regulations which were published in August 2006 and went into full effect in August 2011.

EPA splits containers into two general types, non-refillable containers and refillable containers. For each type, EPA’s regulations set requirements for the design of the containers and for label instructions regarding their reuse, recycling and rinsing.

It used to be much simpler to identify containers as one type or the other, according to Nancy Fitz, with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs.

“When EPA initially developed the regulations, it was easy to tell the difference between the container types. At that point, non-refillable containers were 1- or 2.5 gallon jugs that were clearly intended to be used once, then disposed of or recycled. Refillable containers were large (generally 110 gallons) thick plastic containers that were clearly intended to be refilled.

“But the market has changed a lot over the years. Now caged tanks are extremely common and may be used as a non-refillable container for one specific pesticide or they may be used as a refillable container for a different pesticide.

“It’s important to look at each label carefully to clarify what type of container it is, because the container requirements, the label instructions and what you can do with that container are different for each type.”

For definitions, including pictures, of tanks and containers, see the TPSA Web site.

Bryan Gran, vice president of business development for FarmChem and chairman of the board for TPSA, says the producer is in the best position to rinse and prepare the tanks for refilling or recycling.

“If you have a non-rinsed IBC (intermediate bulk container) or mini-bulk tank, and it has to go to a recycler, the cost of cleaning can be over $100, and that could be just to get rid of the rinsate. When the rinsate comes in, a lot of the times, containers aren’t labeled correctly, and they don’t know what’s in them. Often, they have to be disposed of as hazardous waste even though the product may not be hazardous.”

Gran says the industry “would like to work toward growers rinsing containers in accordance with all applicable rules and laws. Growers can then put the rinsate back into application equipment. This is really the most cost effective way to manage the rinsate.”

For a video on rinsing tanks, click here.

To help insure that rinsed containers meet requirements for pick up, follow the container prep instructions on the side of the tank, Gran said. “If you have any questions, call the registrant. It’s also a good idea to sign documents saying you followed the rules. Stickers placed on the containers are also a very good idea. The stickers may include language indicating the tank has been rinsed and is clean.”

If caged tanks remain in areas where they are not supposed to be and are not rinsed, Gran says additional rules could be imposed on farmers. “When the rinsate can be managed so easily on the farm, we really want to move in that direction.”

After the tanks have been rinsed, they can be picked up for free, according to Gran.

“Just look at the label on the container and call the registrant to see if there are any programs they have for mini-bulk or caged tank recycling programs. Many of them do, and they want their containers to go through those programs.

“So make that call first, and if they don’t have a program, they are going to direct you toward reputable, national recyclers.”

There are at least two free national pick up programs, noted Gran. IBC North America’s Return Net is a national program which will pick up certain numbers of containers. Their Web site is www.returnnetsystem.com, or phone 888-758-SHIP. National Container Group also has a national pickup program. For more information see www.ncg-europe.comor phone 800-774-6956.

A regional program for rinsing and recycling caged tanks on site is available from Interstate Ag Plastics, and serves California, Arizona and Nevada, according to Gran. The mobile unit is designed with automatic pressure rinsing and is loaned to a farmer or chemical company free of charge.

“After the cleaning is completed, Interstate Ag will pick up the pressure-rinsed cleaning truck and schedule an on-site pickup service for removing the cleaned cage tanks or the mini-bulk tanks or IBC containers.”

For more on Interstate Ag Plastics’ program, visit http://www.interstateagplastics.com/

For commercial pesticide users, the Ag Container Recycling Program is an industry-funded, recycling program that includes all high density polyethylene containers less than 56 gallons.

“Users must pressure or triple-rinse containers to be accepted into the program,” Gran said. “There is a lot of equipment and a lot of ways to do this in the field. ACRC contractors collect and or grind the containers on site and manage the plastic from that point on, usually for drain tile.” There is more information at http://acrecycle.org/

Gram encourages growers to ask questions regarding where containers are shipped, how they are going to be recycled and who is going to recycle them. “If you get involved, it will help everybody in the industry.”