At the Helena Chemical Co. in Oakland, Neb., baling twine and a garbage truck, along with a conscientious effort to do things right, make for a successful pesticide container recycling season.

The annual statewide pesticide container recycling program, coordinated by Nebraska Extension’s Pesticide Safety Education Program, is in its 26th year. The recycling program encourages agricultural producers to bring clean containers to one of 20 sites at no cost to them. Contractors haul away the containers to be ground up and reused in industry-approved products such as drain tile, underground utility conduit, highway sign posts and other products.

“Many agricultural producers in the region have a sense of responsibility,” said John Wilson, Nebraska Extension educator based in Tekamah. “They feel recycling containers is the right thing to do.”

Helena Chemical has been a recycling site for the 15 years Ken Elsasser has been operations manager there. Elsasser remembers when 2.5-gallon jugs littered ditches, farmyards and sheds, potentially posing a hazard to children who might play around them. While containers may be burned, Elsasser pointed out that could be environmentally unfavorable to the ozone. Recycling is much better. 

“It’s a good deal for the environment,” Elsasser said. Helena Chemical is open for recycling weekdays May through August, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Many containers brought to the Oakland site are bundled, tied by the handles with baling twine to facilitate handling. There they are loaded into a local garbage truck owned and operated by the contractor, G. Phillips & Sons, based in Stanwood, Iowa. The containers are crushed and hauled in each truckload.

Any crushing, however, is best left to the pros. All containers for the pesticide container recycling should be intact, clean and dry. Nebraska’s program accepts 1- and 2.5-gallon plastic agricultural pesticide or crop oil containers; in some locations, 15-, 30- or 55-gallon drums are accepted. Containers must be pressure- or triple-rinsed and drained. Rinsate must be returned to the spray tank and used appropriately. Container caps, labels, booklets and slipcover plastic labels should all be removed and thrown away. Glued-on paper labels may be left on. Any rejected containers remain the property of the vehicle driver.

Ron Perkins is executive director of the Ag Container Recycling Council (ACRC) that contracts with the hauler, and oversees the national pesticide container recycling effort for its 44 member states. Perkins said in 2016 Nebraska collected 61,680 pounds of containers to be recycled. Nationally last year, ACRC contractors collected a record 11.1 million pounds of containers.

The program is funded by crop protection product manufacturers and distributors through the Virginia-based ACRC. 

“We’re in a time where profits are down and budgets are cut,” said PSEP coordinator Clyde Ogg. “These are the times when it’s probably most important to collaborate with these types of successful voluntary programs.” 

Information about the program is at http://pested.unl.edu/recyclingand information about proper rinsing is at http://extensionpubs.unl.edu/publication/9000016364796/rinsing-pesticide-containers/ .

Nebraska sites this year include six locations open May-August, while seven sites are open year-round. Other sites are open by appointment or specific dates.

Collection Sites

County collection sites are listed below by category and county. Sites accepting 15-, 30- and 55-gallon drums are noted.

Year-Round

  • Buffalo: Kearney Recycling Center, Kearney, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Cass: Wiles Bros. Fertilizer, Plattsmouth, call 402-298-8550 to schedule, accepts drums
  • Cuming: West Point Transfer Station, West Point, Monday through Friday, 8-noon, 1-5 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., accepts drums.
  • Dawson: Country Partners Cooperative, Lexington, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., accepts drums
  • Sarpy: Farmers Union Co-op, Gretna, call 402-332-3315
  • Scotts Bluff: Gering Landfill, Gering, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. accepts drums
  • Washington: Washington County Recycling Center, Blair, Saturdays 8-noon, accepts drums

May – August

  • Antelope: Central Valley Ag, Royal, accepts drums
  • Burt: Helena Chemical Company, Oakland, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Dawes: Solid Waste Association of Northwest Nebraska, Chadron, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., accepts drums
  • Holt: Central Valley Ag, O’Neill, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., accepts drums
  • Kearney: Cooperative Producers Inc., Minden, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saunders: Reid’s Farmacy, Ashland, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Open Specific Days

  • Dakota: Central Valley Ag, South Sioux City, June and July, Wednesdays, 11-noon, accepts drums
  • Dixon: Central Valley Ag, Newcastle, May 5, 19; June 2, 9; July 7, 14; Aug. 4, 11. 8-noon
  • Lancaster: Midwest Farmers Cooperative, Waverly, June 23, accepts drums; Midwest Farmers Cooperative, Bennet, July 14, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., accepts drums
  • Otoe: Midwest Farmers Co-op, Nebraska City, July 24-28, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., accepts drums

 By Appointment Only

  • Burt: Tekamah Transfer Station, Tekamah, year-round by appointment, 402-374-2929
  • Custer: Custer County Recycling, Broken Bow, 308-870-0313, accepts drums
  • Lincoln: North Platte Transfer Station, North Platte, 308-535-6700, accepts drums