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EPA comes down on mini-bulks

Audrey Kittrell 06/13/2011 @ 1:59pm Editorial Intern for Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture Online

Although reusable mini-bulk pesticide containers save farmers and distributors money in the long run, the industry may spend $5 million recycling and $20 million replacing obsolete containers, according to Martin Fitzpatrick with BASF Crop Protection.

Beginning Aug. 16, a new EPA rule will go into effect that will change the legal use and repackaging of many plastic pesticide mini-bulk containers.  The Pesticide Container and Containment Rule was adopted after the popularity of reusable containers suddenly peaked, and more than 10 percent, some 50,000 tanks, began to stockpile in barns and behind warehouses.

Mini-bulks have an expected lifespan of five to seven years, but then create an exposure risk as the HDPE plastic begins to deteriorate and leakage risks increase.

Now, regional and statewide recycling programs are taking action to safely remove unwanted and non-compliant mini-bulk containers.  One such initiative developed by Iowa State University Extension and partners (see below), makes house calls to shred 85-350 gallon stand-alone or caged pesticide mini-bulk tanks. The cost to dealers and growers is a $15 recycling fee per container.

“The goal is to prevent spillage and minimize hazards for workers, and to eliminate any contamination from waste,” said Ken Root, Recycling Coordinator for Agri-business Association of Iowa.

TRI-Rinse, Inc., a multi-state agriculture container/service company, will recycle unwanted containers on site with a mobile chipping platform, shredding containers into 1,500-pound bags.  The shredded plastic will then be transported to a recycling location, or be used in non-consumer products, such as speed bumps and agricultural drain pipes.

The responsibility to recycle non-compliant containers ultimately lies with the registrant of the pesticide product sold in the mini-bulk.  Refillers have similar responsibilities, such as inspecting, cleaning, labeling, and using a container on the registrant’s description of acceptable containers, according to the EPA.

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