Dispose of Empty Pesticide Containers Safely

Use the Kentucky Rinse and Return Program, a voluntary, cooperative program sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) and the Agri-Business Association of Kentucky (ABAK). Other partners include the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service (which helps coordinate the Program at the county level), Farm Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the local conservation districts, and the Ag Container Recycling Council.

Container-handling instructions on pesticide labels will tell you how to clean and dispose of empty containers. Never reuse pesticide containers. Not all containers must be triple-rinsed or pressure-rinsed. If rinsing is required, follow the directions on the label and rinse immediately after emptying the container. Otherwise, residues may become difficult to remove if allowed to dry. When possible, add the rinsate to the next application.

Pressure Rinsing

  • Hold the empty container upside down over the spray tank opening and let it drain for at least 30 seconds.
  • While still holding the container over the opening, puncture the bottom with the pressure-rinse nozzle.
  • Rinse according to the manufacturer’s recommendation (generally 30 seconds or more).
  • Keep rinsed, empty pesticide containers in a secured storage area until they can be recycled or disposed of properly.

Figure 1. Pressure rinsing an empty pesticide container (Photo: https://pasquotank.ces.ncsu.edu/)

Triple Rinsing

  • Empty the pesticide into the spray tank and let the container drain for 30 seconds.
  • Fill the container 10% to 20% full of water or rinse solution.
  • Secure the cover on the container and swirl it to rinse all inside surfaces.
  • Remove cover, pour the rinsate into sprayer tank and let it drain for 30 seconds or more.
  • Repeat the rinse process at least 2 more times.
  • Puncture the container so it cannot be reused.
  • Keep rinsed, empty pesticide containers in a secured storage area until they can be recycled or disposed of properly.

Refillable Containers

Refillable containters will have instructions to return the container to the pesticide dealer or manufacturer. Never tamper with a container designed to be returned and refilled. The label will tell you whether you can recycle, recondition, or dispose of the container and the manner of disposal.

Figure 1. Pressure rinsing an empty pesticide container (Photo: https://pasquotank.ces.ncsu.edu/ )

Be Ready for Spills

Keep a spill cleanup kit in each pesticide transport vehicle and at the site where pesticides are mixed, loaded, and stored. Store your spill kit items in a plastic container and keep them clean and in working order. Include the following items in a spill response kit:

  • Telephone numbers for emergency assistance.
  • PPE designed for use with pesticides.
  • Absorbent materials, such as spill pillows, absorbent clay, and cat litter.
  • A shovel, broom, and dustpan.
  • Heavy-duty detergent.


By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist



Posted in Pesticide Topics