When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) begins enforcing new refillable container and repackaging regulations as of August 17, the date also turns agricultural retailers into “container cops,” too.

If a farmer brings a mini-bulk tank to an ag retailer bulk storage facility to be filled with a pesticide, that tank will have to meet the new EPA requirements just like a refillable tank out of the ag retailer’s mini-bulk stock. The ag retailer has to refuse to fill that farmer’s noncompliant refillable mini-bulk.

Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, explained. “Farmers don’t throw stuff away, they have a view that those old tanks have value. They want to find uses for them…They are going to show up at our members’ places of business next spring and say ‘fill’er up.’ And our retailer folks are now what we affectionately call container cops. They’ll have to tell them that not only they aren’t going to fill them up, but they are illegal. That is going to be a real interesting exercise as our folks go through that process.”  

This insight was brought up during the second day of the Mid America CropLife Association Mini-Bulk Summit in St. Louis, June 8. Specific aspects of ag retailers working with farmer customers came through presentations by Byrum; Jean Payne, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association president; and Kathy Zander, South Dakota Agri-Business Association, executive director.

A four-man panel discussed industry initiatives about recycling mini-bulk tanks that must be taken out of service. Ron Perkins, executive director of the Ag Container Recycling Council, explained the results and findings of the 2010 Iowa Pilot Mini-Bulk Recycling Program, which has provided a blueprint on procedures of how and how not to conduct recycling in other states.

J. D. Fish, application technology manager, Bayer CropScience, represented CropLife America to talk about initiatives, including various literature that has been developed to assist in establishing awareness about the new refillable container regulations, a checklist for mini-bulks, a brochure for cleaning mini-bulks prior to recycling or refilling, and a brochure with photos and descriptions of the many refillable containers for liquid pesticides.

Bryan Gran, business development manager, Tri-Rinse, talked about recycling programs that are in the finalization stages in the states that Tri-Rinse serves with mobile recycle shredders. Tri-Rinse is focusing on Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota as well as working with state organizations and original ag chemical manufacturers. He said other states are stepping forward to have recycling programs, too. Tri-Rinse plans to start its swing through states as of July 25 in Minnesota.

Mike Harding, executive vice-president of IBC North America and associated recycling companies, explained the company’s recycling procedures for ag mini-bulks, which requires ag retailers and repackaging companies to schedule pick-up of mini-bulks via a Web-based logistics network. Trucks pick the mini-bulks up and take them to a permanent recycling center. Mini-bulks also can serve as holders to haul away small plastic jugs for recycling, noted Harding. As with Tri-Rinse, IBC North America assures that all the plastic recycled pellets go for use other than human consumer products. IBC North America’s recycling business units will not provide plastic pellets to Asian countries.

Four major manufacturers talked about minor changes to repack authorization agreements with their retailer customers. Scott Warner represented BASF; John Hansley spoke for Monsanto; Scott Birchfield talked about Syngenta’s contracts, and J.D. Fish explained Bayer CropScience’s agreement.

Drawing the most questions was Fish’s announcement that Bayer CropScience is imposing a 30-month life for composite (caged) IBCs to be used for refilling before they are to be pulled out of service and recycled.