Plastic agricultural pesticide containers fill a shed at the tri-county landfill in Hill County.
The Hill County government has agreed to participate in a program to reduce agricultural waste, working with the state Agriculture Department to recycle plastic pesticide containers, and seeds were planted that may expand the program.
Clay Vincent, Hill County sanitarian and planner, said during a meeting this week that he supports the program as long as he can be certain no pesticides would be spilled in the process.
“I can do that, ” Vincent said. “That’s not a problem at all, but I don’t want people out there cutting up containers … thinking they are triple-rinsed. ”
Arleen Rice of Taylor Aviation-Hi-Line Chemical of Havre and two other representatives of the Montana Agricultural Business Assocation, Bill O’Haire of Wilbur-Ellis Co. in Great Falls and Jon Lee Poulson of Helena Chemical, met in Havre with the Hill County Commission, Vincent, Hill County Weed District Supervisor Terry Turner, and Montana Department of Environmental Quality Local Government and Recycling Section Supervisor Bonnie Rouse to talk about recycling the ag plastic containers.
Rouse agreed in the meeting to look into her department working in partnership with the Department of Agriculture to expand the program, potentially buying a chipper that could handle larger containers or buying a machine to cut up the large containers.
The state Department of Agriculture started in 2009 a program in which a state employee takes a plastic chipper around the state to grind up the containers after they have been properly cleaned and prepared at no charge to local governments, landfills or businesses where the containers are collected.
Ron Ahlgren, pesticide container recycling technician for the department, was in Havre Aug. 10 chipping containers at Taylor Aviation, which stores used containers.
He said the program started in the middle of 2009, and only was in full operation last year and this year.
He recycled more than 50,000 containers in 2009, he said, and is on track to dispose of more this year.
“A lot of people are getting on board, ” Ahlgren said.
This year, close to 60 sites were collecting the containers to recycle, and the number is growing. He said in Scobey, sites have been set to collect the jugs for recycling, and in his last two trips there he recycled 5,000 containers.
The people at the Hill County meeting commended the work Ahlgren is doing.
“And he’s just touching the tip of the iceberg, ” Turner said. “We’ve just got to get more people on line to start doing things. ”
Rice, Poulson and O’Haire also suggested setting up collection dates where farmers and ranchers could bring in their containers, which would be inspected by Department of Agriculture personnel there, with any not properly cleaned or prepared sent back to be cleaned.
Rice said the problem is, when people bring in containers and no one is there, they may not be cleaned and prepared.
“When I come to work at 7 o’clock in the morning, and there are three containers there that are a mess, guess who’s stuck with them. It’s me. ”
She said she will properly dispose of those containers, but not everyone would, and it is an unfair obligation to put on private businesses — the containers may not even have come from Taylor Aviation customers, she said.
Poulson said the policing of the containers is the key. He said it also would be a benefit to have a location at the landfills where the chemical dealers could bring the containers, as long as it is secure.
“We can definitely make it work, ” he said. “We just have to have it structured so it’s policed at the beginning. ”
The group also discussed the problem of having to cut up larger containers. The Department of Ag chipper will handle smaller containers, but barrels have to be cut up, to specifications listed by the department.
Rouse said DEQ could possibly help with the purchase of a larger chipper, which could handle those containers, or possibly in buying a piece of machinery to cut them automatically.
But if DEQ gets involved, the machinery has to be available to all throughout the state, she said.
While the Department of Agriculture’s program is funded through fees on the chemicals, and can only be used for ag pesticide containers, DEQ’s funding for recycling comes through landfill fees, and has to apply to all plastics.
“We don’t see ag plastic, we see plastic, ” she said. “Plastic, plastic, plastic to us is industrial plastic. ”
O’Haire said that should not be a problem as far as the Montana Agricultural Business Association is concerned.
“Everybody would be in favor of everybody being able to use the shredder, ” he said.
Vincent said that the problem he had earlier was because of containers that weren’t cleaned, and with having to cut them up — when barrels were being cut, some would still have chemicals in them, which leaked on the ground.
“Ron (Ahlgren) will make sure that does not happen and I will gladly help with that …, ” Rice said. “Every time one farmer does something incorrectly it speaks to our entire industry, so we want this done correctly. ”