Play it Safe — Clean and Dispose of Pesticides and Containers Properly

Play it Safe — Clean and Dispose of Pesticides and Containers Properly

July 11, 2008

Every year, more than 1 million plastic pesticide containers are used in Nebraska. Every one of these empty containers must be handled properly to ensure that our environment is protected.

Despite our best efforts to avoid accumulating excess pesticides, sometimes it is necessary to dispose of leftover chemicals. Excellent environmental stewardship is exhibited when pesticide applicators handle pesticides and empty containers properly.

This article outlines how to dispose of excess pesticides and clean and dispose of empty containers.

Disposing of Excess Pesticide

The ideal way to dispose of small amounts of pesticide is to apply it to a site listed on the label. Always double check the label before making any applications to any site. If you cannot dispose of the pesticide by applying it to an allowed site or if you have larger quantities to dispose of, your only option may be disposal through a waste disposal company, Following is a list of some companies to contact:


  • Interstate Environmental Services: Omaha (402-393-3884)
  • McCloskey Enterprises: Omaha (402-551-6957)
  • Safety-Kleen Corporation: Gering (308-436-2600), Grand Island (308-384-1616), Omaha (402-333-6321)
  • Univar: Omaha (402-733-3266)
  • U.S. Pollution Control, Inc.: Omaha (402-493-8386)

Methods for Cleaning Pesticide Containers

Two commonly used procedures are effective for rinsing plastic pesticide containers: pressure-rinsing and triple-rinsing.

Pressure-rinsing may be faster and easier than triple-rinsing. A special nozzle, available from your chemical supplier, is attached to the end of a garden or pressure hose. Make sure the hydrant or water source has an anti-siphon or back-flow protection device attached. To pressure rinse a container: 

  1. Empty pesticide into spray tank and allow container to drain for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Insert the pressure-rinser nozzle by puncturing through the pesticide container.
  3. Hold the container upside down over the spray tank opening so rinsate will run into the tank and rinse for 30 seconds or more as you rotate the nozzle to rinse all surfaces.

Triple-rinsing can be done as follows: 

  1. Empty pesticide into spray tank and allow container to drain for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Fill the container about one-fourth full of water, secure the cap on container, shake and swirl the liquid within the container to rinse all surfaces, and then add the rinsate to the spray tank and allow to drain for at least 30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the second step two more times.

Disposing of Pesticide Containers

Return containers to the supplier, recycle the containers, or dispose of containers according to label instructions. Plastic caps and containers are made from different materials and the caps usually can't be recycled. Read more about recycling pesticide containers and the locations that accept the containers for recycling on UNL's Pesticide Education Web site at .

Be Safe

Always wear the personal protective equipment and clothing recommended by the pesticide product label when adding pesticide to the spray tank, and rinsing and disposing of the empty container. By following these label recommendations pesticide handler health is protected.


For more details on these topics see these UNL Extension publications:

Clyde Ogg
Pesticide Safety Educator
Erin Bauer
Extension Assistant

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