How To: Dispose of pesticide containers

With theme parks in California, Florida, Paris, Tokyo and one on the way in Hong Kong, Disney theme parks are some of the most scrutinized structures and grounds anywhere. So when it comes to grounds maintenance and other pest-management practices, the executives at Walt Disney World (WDW) realize that their every move is being watched. When you're being studied that carefully, there's little room for error. The grounds and pest managers at Disney decided some time ago that excellence was the only logical choice. So what does Disney do that sets their grounds crews apart?

Art Mathisen, a member of Walt Disney World Pest Management, ought to know. He is one of seven area managers in the 43-square-mile (that's twice the size of Manhattan) Disney complex. To accomplish all that needs to be done, WDW employs 112 technicians who fill up three different shifts.

Mathisen's approach to his job, and the role of all of Disney's technicians, is entirely consistent with Walt Disney's original concept for his first theme park in California. True to his California lifestyle, Disney envisioned that well-maintained horticultural plants would accentuate the park. Today, the varied, intensely managed horticulture of the resort property is an attraction itself.

The road to recycling

Following the philosophy set by Dinsey, WDW managers work to follow practices that don't harm the environment. According to Mathisen, “We opt for the least environmentally degrading choices as possible. If something stronger is needed, we go from there.” Intensely managed horticulture requires pest control, there's no doubt about that. But according to Mathisen, taking the most environmentally integrated approach leaves options for long-term control. Disney Resorts releases millions of biorational control agents, including carnivorous insects. Scouting and integrated pest management are the everyday way of life at WDW. When biological controls and horticultural soaps don't do the job, then other pest control products are used. Of course, many of these biological products are packaged in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. Soap films also come in 35-gallon drums to Disney. Then there are the containers for herbicides and fungicides that provide needed control in warm, humid Florida. Having enough products on hand to cover 43 square miles results in a lot of empty containers, and by the mid-1990s, WDW wanted to do something environmentally responsible with their mounting number of plastic containers.

Consult a recycler

They approached the Ag Container Recycling Council's designated contractor for Florida: U.S. Ag Recycling, Inc., now located in Waller, Texas. A manager, Sean Lewis, flew to Orlando to meet with Disney officials. “They had several concerns,” recalls Lewis. “I explained that the program was sponsored by some of the most responsible members of the crop-protection and pesticide industry.”

The ACRC researched every aspect of how the WDW recycling process would work, from collection to transportation, and found that:

  1. applicators could be trained to safely and properly remove most of the pesticide residue;

  2. the ACRC contractor would service the facility on a schedule that would avoid excessive storage;

  3. an inspection process served as an appropriate quality control step; and

  4. there were a few industrial applications for recycled pesticide container plastic that were entirely appropriate.

This last point was WDW's most serious concern. The ACRC stepped in at this point and carefully described the paper trail that follows each bag of granulate as it leaves a collection site. The records maintained by each ACRC contractor as well as the oversight by the ACRC staff assures that the product goes only where it is intended. The ACRC Technical Committee is in virtual control of the next step: the final disposition of the chips. The committee uses modern risk assessment and decision modeling to determine acceptable products for plastics that “may” have some small amount of residue. Once an appropriate end-use is found, then industrial hygienists and industry scientists actually perform an audit on each facility where processing is proposed. After all of these safeguards are in place, only then can the ACRC contractor sell the recovered container plastic to an approved site (recycler) for an approved application.

Training makes the difference

After these assurances, the environmental managers at Walt Disney World Resorts authorized the 1996 initiation of the dedicated pesticide and other related product container recycling. U.S. Ag was involved in the initial training, and managers, such as Mathisen, have continued that important step. The ACRC provides video and printed media, and the Disney people make sure that every new technician and manager knows the importance of container stewardship — particularly proper rinsing and other handling. Training is an important part of the Disney Approach. Every technician continually receives updates on products and techniques for pest management. According to Mathisen, “A lot of people don't put training first. They say, ‘Oh I'll get back to that a little later,’ and they never do.” He is adamant: “Always train. If you did it right up front the first time, then you're not going to have any trouble.”

Lewis agrees. “They made a very conscientious effort to comply with the requirements and I think it paid off.” WDW has seldom had any containers rejected. Today, Disney officials can take comfort in the 31,000 containers that they continue to recycle. Disney even uses these records to receive recycling credits with the local landfill.

“Walt Disney World has been, and I believe they will always be, a strong supporter of the ACRC,” says Lewis. And when you are maintaining the grounds of one of the most visited places on earth — and even when you aren't — you should always opt for the best container stewardship possible. Walt Disney World Resorts has a partner in its approach: the ACRC. It's a partnership that helps achieve high standards, a partnership that is both cost effective and welcomes close scrutiny.

Robert L. Denny, II, is executive director for the Ag Container Recycling Council (Washington, D.C.).


There are several ways to dispose of empty pesticide containers. First, check with the manufacturer or supplier. They often can tell you where to go, or may even accept empty containers themselves. Some provide pesticides in reusable containers that you simply return when you use up all the product.

Also check with your local cooperative extension office or county agricultural agent. They may be aware of a “Recycling Day” or similar program that will accept empty containers. These frequently are held once or twice a year to offer opportunities for disposal.

Check out the Ag Container Recycling Center's (ACRC) web site at This will help you locate the designated ACRC contractor for your state and contact them for a service request. If your business is not large enough for direct service, determine the collection site nearest you. No nearby site? Call or write the ACRC headquarters for information that you can use to talk to your solid-waste regulatory authority. The ACRC even has materials for training local landfill workers on how to handle and inspect pesticide and adjuvant containers acceptable to the program.

Train your personnel — not only when they are new, but refresh their memories at intervals as well. The ACRC will provide videos, brochures and checklists for acceptable containers. Your first source for these materials is your designated ACRC granulation contractor. Once you have the materials, train everyone — managers to technicians — on the environmental and long-term economic benefits of proper container stewardship.

Let your customers and community know that, by committing to a recycling program, you are dedicated to the environment. Successful container stewardship not only makes good environmental sense, it helps market your company as well.


The first step before your containers (jugs and drums) can be accepted — wherever you take them — for recycling is to thoroughly rinse all residues from the containers immediately after use. Only dry, properly rinsed containers are accepted at collection sites.

Why is proper rinsing important?

  • It is required by law.
  • It gives you full value for your product dollar.
  • Properly rinsed containers are classified as clean, solid waste.

How do you make sure your containers are properly rinsed? First, read the product label. Then follow the procedures below for rinsing containers(jugs) and drums.

For pressure rinsing containers (jugs):

  • Empty contents of container into spray tank, turning the container so that any product trapped in the handle is allowed to flow out. Once flow is down to a drip, allow the container to drain for an additional 30 seconds.

  • Immediately begin rinsing procedures or the product may become difficult to remove.

  • Hold the container so the opening can drain into spray tank.

  • Force tip of the pressure nozzle through the lower portion of the side closest to the handle.

  • Connect nozzle to a clean water source of at least 40 psi. Turn the nozzle inside the container to assure good coverage of all sides, including the handle.

  • Rinse for at least 30 seconds.

  • Rinse cap under water coming out of the drum and into the spray can and then dispose of cap appropriately as regular solid waste.

  • Drain all rinse water into the spray tank.

For triple rinsing containers (jugs):

  • Empty contents of container into spray tank, turning the container so that any product trapped in the handle is allowed to flow out. Once flow is down to a drip, allow the container to drain for an additional 30 seconds.

  • Immediately begin rinsing procedures or the product may become difficult to remove.

  • Fill the empty container ¼ full of clean water.

  • Replace the cap on the container. With the container opening facing left, shake the container left to right over a distance of four to six inches. Shake the container about twice per second for 30 seconds.

  • Drain rinse water into spray tank as previously described.

  • Fill the empty container ¼ full of clean water a second time.

  • Recap the container. With the opening of the container pointed towards the ground, shake the container as described before. Then drain the rinse water into the spray tank.

  • Finally, fill the empty container ¼ full once more with clean water.

  • Recap the container. With the container in the normal, upright position, shake the container as described before.

  • Pour the rinse water into the spray tank. Carefully rinse and spray residue from the outside of the container.

  • Carefully rinse cap over spray tank opening and then dispose of cap appropriately as regular solid waste.

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