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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.

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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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