Pesticide Disposal and Household Hazardous Waste
Sometimes farming is given a bad reputation due to pesticides. We hear statistics about how many pesticides are used, and how it can be dangerous to our children and our environment. But did you know that pesticide usage is actually decreasing, and many of the pesticides used today are much less dangerous to both people and the environment than ones used years ago?
This is one reason that there is a need for pesticide disposal day events. Famers today are embracing new technology, which allows them to use fewer pesticides. Not only that, but famers are always looking for ways to save money, as it seems to get harder to make a profit every year. Most farmers today practice what is called integrated pest management, or IPM for short. IPM is an approach in which farmers only use pesticides when there is no other option. An example of this would be when insect levels in a field reach a point where the damage caused by the insect will cost the farmer more than it would to apply an insecticide. Many farmers buy pesticides early in the season based on how much they expect to use, but since we can’t always predict the weather, and weather plays a vital role in how a crop will be managed, sometimes they buy more than they end up needing. In most years, these pesticides can be saved for next year, but others may get lost in the dark, back corner of the shed, where the label fades away or they become completely ineffective. Other times laws may change, and a pesticide may not be legally used anymore on that crop. What can be done with those pesticides?
They can be brought to the Pesticide Disposal day of course! There was a time when pesticides could be dumped in the landfill, or sprayed out somewhere on the back forty. This was dangerous for both people and the environment, so in 1976, regulations were made governing how pesticides must be disposed. As a result, pesticides could no longer be dumped, but there was not a program set up yet to get rid of them when they were no longer wanted. In 1980, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services set up the first program of its kind in the country to assist farmers in getting rid of unwanted pesticides. They called it the Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program.
At first this program came to farms on an individual basis to pick up unwanted pesticides as needed, but in 1997, the program teamed up with North Carolina Cooperative Extension to set up disposal days at designated locations. The benefits of this cooperation were quickly realized. In years like this one, flooding can cause damage to pesticides as well, as floodwater can contaminate pesticides. After the devastating flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, over 120,000 pounds of flood-damaged pesticides were collected statewide. Over the past five years, the program has collected an average of 184,000 pounds of pesticide every year statewide. However, the past two years have been record breaking, with over 198,000 pounds collected in 2016, and over 200,000 pounds of unwanted pesticides collected last year statewide! See, I told you farmers are using fewer pesticides!
But it’s not just farmers, many of us use pesticides in our backyard to keep the worms out of the garden or keep grass out of the cracks in the sidewalk. Just like any other pesticide, sometimes these become less effective over time or break down as they are exposed to light. Maybe you’ve found something better to use and just don’t use that product anymore, or sometimes again they just get forgotten about. Well now is the time to remember them, and get rid of them.
Wherever you keep pesticides, whether you are a farmer or not, now is the time to take an inventory. If you have pesticides that you haven’t used in years, they probably have begun to loose their effectiveness and need to be thrown out. Also look for containers that are no longer safe, ones that may be leaking, or have that layer of crust around the lid. Some pesticides may even have become hardened and are no longer usable, no matter how much you try to shake them up. Bring them to the Dennis Wicker Civic Center, located at 1801 Nash Street, on Saturday, November 2, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and let us take them off your hands. There is no charge, and no questions asked, just please bring them in the original container.
Don’t forget, you can also bring household waste to the event. This includes anything in your home that may be hazardous, including: paint, varnish, batteries, pool chemicals, automotive fluids, CFL light bulbs, and more. For further information on household hazardous waste, contact Lee County Solid Waste at 919-718-4622. For more information on the Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program contact North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center at 919-775-5624.
Mitchell Williams is the Agriculture Agent – Field Crops and Livestock, for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.