By Stephanie Barnes
In 2020, the Butte Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), located in Arco, Idaho, was awarded a Friends of NACD grant to install a locally accessible recycling bin for agricultural chemical containers. With no recycling facilities located within the district, there was a need to appropriately dispose of chemical containers that did not result with them ending up in the landfill. As a commercial chemical sprayer, Butte SWCD board member Todd Perkes observed first-hand the need for a dedicated recycling bin: “When I would ask customers what they do with their empty chemical containers, all too often the answer was to throw them in the trash.”
Teaming up with Valley Ag in Arco, the Butte SWCD built a weatherproof structure at the Valley Ag location. District employee Stephanie Barnes said, “Working with Valley Ag was a great opportunity to build a relationship with our local agriculture chemical supplier and commercial applicator. They were a big help in getting the structure built and will utilize the bin for their own empty containers this coming year.”
The recycling bin is free for the public to use, and there are rules that must be followed. These include triple rinsing containers and removing their lids and labels. Once the recycling bin is full, Agri-Plas, Inc., an agricultural waste recycling company based in Oregon, will make stops at the bin along their Idaho route to collect the containers. Containers are ground into pieces on site and hauled to a recycling plant. The recycling bin is available to homeowners who may only have one empty herbicide jug to recycle, as well as commercial applicators that treat thousands of acres each year.
Water quality has always been a high priority for the Butte SWCD. The Friends of NACD grant helped the district approach this resource concern from a different angle. This resulted in an increase in district capacity, and the ability to reach a wider audience. While this recycling bin takes care of the immediate need to keep agricultural chemical containers out of the landfill and from potentially leaching chemicals into groundwater, it also opens the door for the Butte SWCD to provide outreach for urban homeowners and students on water quality issues.
The Butte SWCD hopes this is just the first step in creating even more recycling opportunities within the area. As Barnes notes, “We are located so far from the nearest recycling plant, that having local access to these facilities is imperative to the adoption of these practices by our residents.”
The funding and partnership provided by the Friends of the NACD were essential to completing this project. The project has been well received by residents and has helped to spread Butte SWCD’s conservation message.