Best Practice for Recycling Pesticide and Chemical Containers

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There are many differences between living in “the county” and “the city”. Depending on your preferences, some are comfort-related and some of them fall along the line of convenience. I live right outside of the city limits of Sanford, but am fortunately less than two miles away from the Carbonton Road Convenience Center. The weekends are my trash and recycling run times, and I was just in time to fish out a residential pesticide chemical container from the recycling bin on one of my recent trips. There is a safer way to dispose of chemicals and chemical containers!

Reading the Label

Every pesticide chemical sold in the US legally has a label on it that follows a formula of information so that people who buy it know how to properly and safely use the chemical. It is best practice before you purchase a chemical to familiarize yourself with the information on the label so you can make an informed decision as to what product is best for and what safety considerations you may need to make.

Dealing with “Empty” Chemical Bottles

There is a “Storage and Disposal” section on every label. The label on the container I pulled out said: “If Empty: Place in trash or offer for recycling, if available.” The Lee County Solid Waste Division of General Services oversees the recycling services for the county. Amber Giles, the current Solid Waste Enforcement Officer, recommended that pesticide containers not be placed in the county recycling bins; instead rinse them out and dispose of them in the normal household trash. At the time of this publishing, the City of Sanford was confirming with their contractors about their recommendation for pesticide containers in the city residents’ recycling stream. The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center website will be updated when confirmation is received.

It is not best practice to mingle unwashed chemical containers with household recyclables for a myriad of reasons. Think about when your cans and bottles drip that last little bit of liquid in the bottom of where you keep your recycling. Any Recycling Pesticide Containerspesticide residue left in the container you put in the receptacle could do that too, and could be harmful down the line in the recycling process. Folks who have their Pesticide Applicator licenses know that they must triple rinse their chemical containers with fresh water and pierce the container so it cannot be used for something else, and then throw it away in the trash, if recycling is not an option. There are locations that take rinsed containers that can be found at the NCDA&CS’ Pesticide Container Recycling Program website.

Unused and/or Unwanted Chemicals

The next part on the label said, “If Partly Filled: Call your local solid waste agent for disposal instructions. Never place unused product down any indoor or outdoor drain.” This recommendation can apply to most any mechanical or household liquid, granular or powdered chemical (including paint and other construction materials).

The Lee County Solid Waste Division of General Services works with the NCDA&CS’ Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program and the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center staff each year to host a FREE Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day. This year it is on Saturday, November 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, 1801 Nash Street, Sanford, NC 27330. This is open to all residents of Lee County, county or city folks! The goal is to keep the residents of Lee County safe, and to give households and farms a safe outlet to dispose of any old or unused chemical waste (instead of dumping them or burning them, both of which are illegal and can incur heavy fines).

Giles encouraged anyone who has any unwanted chemicals to bring them on the HHW Disposal Day. “If in doubt, bring it!”, she said. Whether it is labeled or some unknown chemical you found in the old shed, the company they contract with is uniquely specialized to figure out a safe way to dispose of materials. Check out the HHW Disposal Day website to see a list of potential donations.

The goal when it comes to pesticides is to make sure people and the environment are safe from undue harm from improperly managed chemicals. By reading the chemical label and using best practice to manage chemical waste we can keep our family, friends and ecosystems safe and healthy for now and the future. It takes everyone working together to reach this goal.

NOTE: The Household Hazardous Waste Day is only open to households and farms. If you own a business that has a lot of unwanted chemicals, please contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center at 919-775-5624 and we can work with you to safely dispose of your chemicals.


Lee County, NC Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day:

Lee County, NC Recycling

City of Sanford Sanitation

NCDA&CS Pesticide Section

NCDA&CS Pesticide Container Recycling Program

Amanda Wilkins is the Horticulture Agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension in Lee County.