Pesticides - Best Practice Guides


Container Cleaning

Cleaning agrochemical containers correctly at the time of use ensures that a potential source of pesticide exposure to people, animals and the environment is kept to an absolute minimum. It is also economical and efficient to add the washings to the spray tank as this ensures that all the chemical is used up.

Take the time to clean containers properly. It is easier and quicker to clean the containers “on the job” rather than leaving material to dry which then needs to be cleaned later. Consider larger pack sizes and choose products that minimise or make cleaning easier. Optimum spraying time in the field is limited, so it is important you do not to waste time cleaning containers, choosing alternative packs and products can speed up the cleaning process.

Clean pesticide containers are non-hazardous waste.
Dirty pesticide containers are hazardous waste.
Disposal charges for hazardous waste can be 5 times more expensive.
Clean pesticide containers thoroughly to keep disposal costs down.

During mixing

  • Ensure that mixing a nd filling is taking place at an appropriately designed site. See the CPA Guide on Pesticide Filling and Handling Areas and the VI/EA leaflet Solutions for Pesticide Handling Areas;
  • Read and follow all label instructions.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing.
  • Avoid spillages. If a spill occurs clean it up immediately using absorbent material such as sand or cat litter; dispose of waste through a registered waste disposal contractor
  • “Manage” foil seals, ensure they are cleaned and are not dropped on the ground
  • Take care to ensure the outside of the container and any cardboard outers do not become contaminated otherwise these will need cleaning too.
  • Ensure all containers are emptied as far as practical –
    • For liquids – drain for at least 30 seconds. Make sure that the opening is at the lowest point to allow for the fullest drainage.
    • For solids – empty packs should be shaken and folds pulled out ensuring that no product is trapped. Take care to avoid operator contamination. Depending on the material and the design it may be possible to “rinse” some packs
  • Always rinse empty containers immediately after emptying. Do not allow the remaining liquids to dry.
  • Never re-use a pesticide container for any purpose, except if it is a dedicated re-usable container or if you need it to hold the same pesticide from a damaged container.

Top Tip

Leave containers to standing upright after the main rinse. At the end of the filling operation drain the last dregs into the induction bowl.

How to clean

  • Good cleaning with water will reduce pesticide residues in the container down to the tiniest amounts. They then present the least possible hazard and the widest range of disposal options. Correctly cleaned containers are classed as non hazardous waste.
  • Check the product label for any specific instructions.
  • Use water to rinse and add the washings immediately to the spray tank.
  • Do not wash containers which have hydrogen cyanide gassing powers or aluminium, magnesium or zinc phosphides. Instead, fill them with dry earth or sand before disposing of through licensed waste disposal contractor.

Clean Containers?

Either 20 seconds of pressure cleaning or triple rinsing should mean containers are not treated as hazardous waste. If in doubt make sure that containers are visibly clean.

Pressure cleaning

  • Most new sprayers are supplied with special pressure rinsing devices. These should always be used when available as they provide a quick, efficient and consistent method of rinsing containers.
  • Ensure clean water is used especially for any final rinse, check sprayer manufacturer’s instructions for more advice on using the pressure rinsing device.
  • Containers should be rinsed for 20 seconds and gently moved around the rinsing nozzle to ensure even coverage
  • Ensure that containers have sufficient time to drain after rinsing.

Triple rinsing

Means just that; rinsing the container three times. You can triple rinse most rigid containers in the following way:

  1. Fill the emptied container 10 – 20% full of water
  2. Replace the cap securely
  3. Depending on container size shake, rotate or roll it vigorously to rinse all inside surfaces
  4. Remove the cap, add the washings to the spray tank and let the container drain for 30 seconds or more
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 twice more
  6. Put the cap back on the container and dispose of according to the section on disposal.

Correctly cleaned containers are now ready for safe disposal.

Disposal of cleaned containers

  • New farm waste regulations (expected to be introduced in early 2006) mean that burial and burning of waste such as pesticide containers on farm and use of farm tips will be illegal in England and Wales. Similar but different arrangements apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland check with the relevant environment agency. Their arrangements are summarised in the guide on Pesticide Container Disposal;
  • Unless advised otherwise by your waste disposal/recycling contractor, store dry containers awaiting disposal, upright with caps on, in a dedicated secure compound;
  • Recycling contractors may accept properly cleaned containers visit (website expected to become fully operational during November 2006) ;
  • Cleaned containers may be accepted at licensed disposal sites, subject to conditions allowing acceptance of such waste. Correctly cleaned containers need not be treated as hazardous waste;
  • Alternatively use a licensed Waste Disposal Contractor;

This guide was produced by the Crop Protection Association. It is currently under review. Some of the advice herein may change with the introduction of new waste management regulations anticipated during 2005. 

November 2004

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