Pesticides - Best Practice Guides


Container Incineration

The Green Code - Code of Practice for the Safe use of Pesticides on Farms and Holdings outlines three ways in which farmers may dispose of waste agrochemical packaging. This guide gives advice on agrochemical container incineration. More detailed guidance on the alternative technique of burial or use of a reputable waste disposal contractor is given in the Code of Practice and the Crop Protection Association guide  Pesticide Disposal.

The law and burning

The main requirements of the law are that a fire should not cause a nuisance or create dark smoke. Fires should also be situated at least 15 m away from a public highway. In addition advice should be sought from the Local Environmental Health Department Pollution Officer.

WARNING: Agricultural waste Law Changes Expected

Proposed new UK farm waste regulations mean that uncontrolled burning of waste on farm and use of farm tips will no longer be possible. A public consultation period is due in late 2004, and a summary document of proposals will then be made available to all farmers. The advice given in this Guide will be updated when the new regulations are introduced. However, it is  expected that on-farm burning of cleaned pesticide containers using the drum incinerator will continue to be a  permitted disposal option until at least 2006.

Smoke colour

Dark smoke is generated by burning at a low temperature and/or burning certain materials such as rubber tyres and diesel oil. An incineration with a hot fire burning agrochemical containers will produce slightly grey smoke at the beginning and end of the burn. Smoke colour is measured by use of the Ringleman Chart (figure below); only when the smoke colour reaches the 40% obscuration point is it considered dark. However, the degree of obscuration will depend on the quality of the natural light. Sunny days will tolerate more smoke than cloudy days. Incineration using the techniques below will reduce smoke colour to a minimum.


Container preparation

All containers should be thoroughly cleaned and emptied before disposal. They should be re-sealed, capped and placed in their cardboard case. Containers holding dry materials should be thoroughly emptied and, if practical, should be "rinsed " and "drained". Paper containers should be folded and placed in a cardboard box, or 50 kg fertiliser or seed bag. Cleaned containers should then be placed in a dry secure compound prior to disposal.


Independent trials sponsored by the Crop Protection Association have shown that correctly cleaned containers properly incinerated can be burnt efficiently, quickly and safely on farms. Compared with a garden bonfire which burns at 300-500 degrees centigrade, good incineration will produce temperatures of between 800 and 950 degrees, produce little smoke and give a thorough combustion of all materials with minimal ash and no mess. The gases produced from the fire are similar to those produced by burning pine wood and the remaining ash has no pesticide residues.

Work at Silso using a 210 litre steel drum has shown the best design for an efficient low-cost incinerator. The incinerator can be built on-farm or supplied by a local engineer. The typical cost for adapting a drum should be £40-50. The particular configuration and size of holes is critical to the performance of the incinerator so farmers building their own should follow the design below.

Incinerator management


  • It is best to burn containers regularly on a little and often basis; it may be possible to burn in or near the field of work although a dedicated site on-farm may also be suitable.
  • Site the incinerator away from roads, livestock, domestic houses, farm buildings, hedgerows, watercourses and wildlife areas.
  • Ensure incinerators are not near to any combustible materials such as wood, straw, fertiliser and the material to be burnt.
  • Place incinerators on a firm level surface or concrete hard standing. To make absolutely sure there is no risk of water pollution hard standings should be drained to a separate sump.
  • Keep a bucket of water or bowser/water carrier close at hand.
  • Best weather conditions are clear calm weather with low wind speeds. Avoid incineration in high winds or in cloudy or overcast weather.

Starting the fire

  • Place a completely full cardboard case in the incinerator and open the top to allow access to the plastic containers.
  • Place either a diesel soaked rag or a firelighter into the middle of the cardboard case.
  • Light the firelighter/rag. Within five minutes the fire should be going well enough to add further cases.

Managing the incinerator

  • Supervise the incinerator at all times. Never leave any fire unattended.

  • When the incineration is under way the fire is extremely hot. Take great care when approaching and loading the incinerator.
  • When filling the incinerator approach from upwind to avoid the flames and smoke. Avoid breathing any smoke or fumes generated. Thick leather protected gloves may be worn.
  • To minimise the risk of dark smoke and for easier handling add full cases of containers. Adding plastic containers alone increases the risk of dark smoke.
  • Do not overfill the incinerator, this will tend to decrease its work rate and increases the risk that burning ash/cardboard will fly away. Wait until there is sufficient room to hold at least 90% of the material you are adding. For more information on work rates are given below.
  • Avoid riddling or poking the fire, this should not be necessary and will increase the risk of generating dark smoke.

Work rates

Typical work rates are 15 cases per 30 minutes including a 5 minute start up time. After loading the last container case, the incinerator will burn vigorously for 5 -10 minutes after which it will start to decline. The fire will reduce to glowing embers about 30 minutes after the last case is added. The fire should be supervised at all times but close attention will be needed during the main burn.

For faster burning it is recommended that 2-3 incinerators are run simultaneously; to ensure safe operation they should be placed at least 5m apart.

Disposal of ash

The Drum Incinerator design keeps the base of the oil drum, this means that ash is retained in the drum and there is no mess. Ash can be removed from the incinerator by turning it upside down. It may then be disposed of either by soil incorporation, burial or through normal waste disposal routes.

The ash produced from incineration of cleaned pesticide containers, using the techniques described in this leaflet has been analysed. The analysis showed, at the limit of determination used (0.1 ppb), that there was no pesticide residues.

Crop Protection Association incinerator design


This guide was produced by the Crop Protection Association. November 2004.Some of the advice herein may change with the introduction of new waste management regulations anticipated during 2005. 

November 2004

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