Missouri, with the help of Missouri Ag Industries Council Inc. in Jefferson City, is one of 47 states participating in a clean pesticide container recycling program. The Missouri program began in 1991 and in the first five years recycled more than 520,000 pounds of pesticide containers. This year Mo-Ag, as the not-for-profit trade association of agribusiness firms is nicknamed, collected 150,000 pounds of the high density polyethylene containers, which will be made into pallets for the agriculture/chemical industry.
Missouri was one of the first states to participate in the recycling venture.
``The [contaminated] containers weren't allowed in landfills and burning them was illegal,'' said Andrea Howerton, Mo-Ag program coordinator.
Mo-Ag hopes this will help avoid mandated recycling programs and show that agriculture dealers and farmers are working toward safeguarding the environment.
``Eventually we'd like to see 100 percent of all agriculture containers sold in Missouri recycled,'' Howerton said.
She said that currently 20-25 percent of the containers in Missouri are recycled through the program with the remainder being buried in landfills or burned.
However, before the containers can be recycled, growers must enroll in the program through their local dealer and follow a series of steps to remove hazardous waste from the containers. The containers must be triple rinsed or pressure rinsed before being returned, and farmers must certify that the containers are dry and have been properly cleaned. Only containers 21/2 gallons or smaller are accepted and must be free of lids, seals and labels.
Although there is no deposit fee for farmers, each dealer is asked to pay $100 to finance materials explaining the program. About 140 dealerships participate and each have three to five farmers bringing in containers.
In August, the dealers transport the containers to one of 11 grinding sites throughout the state. Dealers must apply to be a grinding site and Mo-Ag tries to keep the transportation distance under 60 miles, Howerton said.
Tri-Rinse Inc. of St. Louis does the grinding. The firm's transportable chipper/grinder breaks down the containers at each grinding site. The material is then taken to its plant in St. Louis, where it is made into pallets.
``We don't pay for the service or get paid for the plastic,'' Howerton said. ``This is a 100 percent volunteer program.''