How Do I Dispose of an Empty Pesticide Container?

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Now that we are in the middle of a busy gardening season, you may find yourself with a couple of empty containers of weed killer or insect spray, and wondering what is a safe way to dispose of them.

The answer is actually quite simple. Once they are empty, you can dispose of them with your household trash.

For any container that held a concentrated pesticide (i.e. one that you mixed with water in your own sprayer), first make sure that it is thoroughly rinsed out. Note, however, that the rinse water should be poured into the sprayer and then sprayed out as if you were making an actual application. Thus, for example, the rinse water from a bottle of weed killer should be sprayed out onto a weedy area.

You might think that sending them to a landfill is not very environmentally friendly. Yes, we do have recycling programs for empty pesticide containers, but those programs are designed for farmers and commercial pesticide applicators that may have dozens of large empty containers. Under no circumstance should empty pesticide containers be placed in your household recycling bin with soda bottles and soup cans.

A better way to lessen your environmental impact is to buy pesticides only when you really need them, and only the amount you need. Buying small containers may cost more per ounce, but is often a better value all things considered.

For containers that have product in them that you no longer need, there are basically three options:

1. Use it up according to the instructions.

2. Carry it to a local household hazardous waste event or location, if offered by your local government (many do not).

3. Take it to a Pesticide Disposal Day offered by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. These are conducted in each NC county once every two years. See a schedule of upcoming collection days, or call your County Extension Center.

Note that disposal recommendations may vary slightly from product to product, and you should always follow any disposal instructions provided on the product label.