Treat and dispose of chemical rinsate

Monitor your decision. These are words to live by once you make a pesticide application. Prior to your decision on how to control a pest through the integrated-pest-management (IPM) approach, you evaluated multiple means of pest control. Now, after the application, comes monitoring. Monitoring doesn't mean only evaluating and watching the pest population after the pesticide application; as a responsible pesticide applicator, you recognize that the pesticide-application process is far from over. In addition, you need to develop an awareness of proper follow-up procedures. These involve the proper rinsing of a liquid-pesticide container, the disposal of the rinse solution (rinsate) and the recycling of the empty plastic-pesticide container.

Rinsing of containers Proper rinsing of pesticide containers is easy to do and offers several benefits. First, it saves money. Insecticides and herbicides are expensive. Therefore, proper rinsing of the liquid container ensures that you use the entire product. Container rinsing also helps protect people, animals and the environment. After rinsing, people and animals won't be exposed to any remaining material in the containers--there is none because the container is clean and dry.

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For these reasons, regulations require proper rinsing. Enforcement agencies treat empty but unrinsed pesticide containers as hazardous waste. However, they usually consider rinsed containers as solid waste. Even during the busy season, the few minutes it takes to properly rinse empty pesticide containers is time you must allow. After all, as listed on the pesticide label, federal law requires you to rinse each liquid pesticide container clean.

Proper pesticide-container rinsing Two commonly used and accepted procedures exist that are effective for proper rinsing of pesticide containers: triple-rinsing and pressure-rinsing. Selecting between the two is simply a matter of preference and logistics. Of course, you must keep safety in mind as well. Always wear appropriate pesticide-protective clothing and equipment during the rinsing operation. You want to avoid any chance that rinsate could splash into your eyes or onto exposed skin surfaces. Typically, you should wear goggles, pesticide gloves and an apron or coveralls (see related article, "What's New: Personal protective equipment," November 1997).

You can perform the triple-rinsing procedure easily as it doesn't require any special equipment. To triple-rinse a container, follow these steps:

* Drain the empty container about 30 seconds.

* Fill the empty pesticide container 10 to 20 percent full of water or rinse solution (for example, fertilizer solution) and replace the cap securely on the container.

* Shake the contents to rinse all inside surfaces.

*Pour the rinsate into the spray tank and allow the container to drain for 30 seconds or more.

* Repeat the process at least two more times (until the container is clean).

Pressure-rinsing involves the use of pressure-rinsing nozzles, which penetrate the side of a plastic-pesticide container (see bottom photo, page 88). Each nozzle has a built-in shut-off device to control the flow of the water. Water squirts out of the spear-point-nozzle openings and rinses the interior of the plastic-pesticide container. The steps to pressure-rinsing are:

* Empty the pesticide into the spray tank and let the container drain for 30 seconds.

* Attach the pressure-rinsing nozzle to a water hose.

* Puncture the lower side of a pesticide container with a pointed-pressure nozzle.

* Remove the cap and hold the container upside-down over the spray tank (see left-hand photo, page 90).

* Rotate and wiggle the nozzle during the rinsing process so that water reaches all interior surfaces of the container. The pressurized water cleans the inside surfaces of the container while the rinsate flows into the spray tank below the pesticide container.

* Rinse for the length of time recommended by the manufacturer (usually 30 seconds or more).

* Rotate the nozzle to rinse all inside surfaces.

Generally, pesticide dealers offer pressure-rinsing nozzles for about $20 to $45, depending on the style and model. Pressure-rinsing, typically, is faster and easier than triple-rinsing. Plus, because federal law does not permit the use of pesticide containers for any other purpose than pesticide storage, this technique offers another advantage: Pressure-rinsing keeps anyone from using the container for other purposes. It punctures the container and prevents the storage of other liquids.

Rinsate disposal For responsible pesticide use, you must plan and prepare in advance. For example, adding rinsate directly into a spray tank efficiently and economically uses all the pesticide in the container. This action eliminates the need to store and later dispose of the rinsate. Thus, proper rinsing is a sound management and environmental practice.

Pesticide-container recycling Your next step in pesticide stewardship after the application is properly disposing of the rinsed pesticide container. Nearly all 50 states offer recycling programs of plastic pesticide containers. These recycling programs accept plastic pesticide containers in the 1- and 2.5-gallon sizes. Recycling guidelines for plastic pesticide containers include:

* Rinse, drain and dry plastic pesticide containers. Remove the plastic slipcovers and booklets from the pesticide containers. Deliver the containers to the inspection/collection site for the first inspection. The inspection site will accept any container without pesticide residue. Pesticide-stained containers (cleaned and rinsed) are acceptable. The inspection site will store acceptable containers away from exposure to elements

Stewardship is the key More and more pesticide applicators are setting excellent examples and taking pride in their participation in environmental stewardship. Stewardship begins by rinsing the pesticide container immediately after you empty it and before the product dries inside the container. Then add the rinsate solution to the spray application. This process allows you to present the clean plastic pesticide container for recycling. In addition, recycling these containers protects people and the environment from a potential source of contamination, and we save raw resources in the manufacturer of subsequent new plastic products.

Dr. Larry Schulze is an extension pesticide coordinator at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln.

The Nebraska Pesticide Container Recycling program expanded to its greatest degree in 1997 since its inception in 1992 by adding two more inspection/collection sites. In 1997, Nebraskans actively exhibited environmental stewardship in record numbers at 54 other collection/inspection sites. Cooperation and organization by the University of Nebraska Extension Educators with the extension pesticide coordinator resulted in new sites and businesses serving as inspection/collection sites.

As a result, collections of 1- and 2.5-gallon plastic containers reached an all-time high. In 1997, Nebraska's pesticide applicators recycled more than 85,700 pounds of plastic representing 117,400 containers. That is more than twice the number of containers recycled the previous year and nearly six times the amount recycled in 1992.

A representative of the Agricultural Container Research Council (ACRC) of Washington, D.C., provided the second inspection and grinding of the pesticide containers later in the season (see photo, above right). Tri-Rinse Inc. (St. Louis, Mo.) is the ACRC representative for the north-central states. Pesticide manufacturers contribute on a national scale and support the activities of firms such as Tri-Rinse and their contemporaries in the United States.

The recycling project goes full circle. Industries use the recycled plastic to make a variety of products. New pesticide containers, plastic shipping pallets, plastic fence posts, traffic-lane markers and parking-lot tire bumpers are all examples of products made from the recycled plastic of pesticide containers.

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