Clean-up program calls for chemical recycling

June 29, 2004|by DAVID DISHNEAU

FREDERICK, Md. - By noon Monday, Gregory Morris had collected 334 plastic pesticide containers at his station at the Frederick County Landfill - and the number was growing.

Morris, a state pesticide regulation inspector, inspected the containers for cleanliness - federal law requires that they be triple-rinsed before disposal - and tossed them into a semitrailer. At summer's end, a private firm will pick up the trailer and shred the jugs for recycling into plastic lumber.

The 21/2-gallon jugs that once held Round Up, Transline and other chemical compounds are being recycled under an environmental clean-up program sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and pesticide manufacturers.

With 25 million to 35 million such containers sold annually in the United States, disposal is a problem for farmers, businesses, highway departments and other public agencies that use chemicals to kill weeds, insects and fungi.


So Maryland, like many states, invites pesticide users to bring their empty containers to collection points once a month during the summer.

The Frederick County Landfill serves as a collection point for Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties.

"It's an environmental stewardship initiative," said Yassir Islam, spokesman for the Ag Container Recycling Council, a Washington-based consortium of 30 pesticide makers. "It benefits users, it benefits the environment and we're recycling it into a product that has a new life as something else."

Islam estimated the decade-old project recycles about 30 percent of the pesticide containers sold.

Rob Hofstetter, an MDA entymologist and special programs coordinator, said the jugs are collected at nine public sites - like the Frederick County Landfill - and nine private cooperatives.

Last year, the state collected more than 39,000 containers, he said. Most were the standard, 21/2-gallon size, but others ranged from a few ounces to 1,100-gallon tanks, Hofstetter said.

The state's cost of $5,800 to $6,000 a year is covered by a federal grant, he said.

Customers at Morris' station Monday included the Frederick County weed control office, which uses pesticides to control roadside brush.

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