How to dispose of pesticides?

Disposal of Pesticides

Pesticides need to be disposed of properly to prevent accidents and to protect the environment. If you have unwanted pesticide products, store them safely and dispose of them as soon as you can.

  • Dispose of pesticides as instructed on the product label. Look for the “Storage and Disposal” statement on your pesticide label.
  • If any product remains in the container it must be disposed of as household hazardous waste.
  • To find out where to take your unwanted pesticides, you can contact your local household hazardous waste, call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687), or talk to your state’s environmental agency. Remember! State and local laws can be more strict than federal requirments.
  • After emptying a pesticide container rinse it properly for disposal or recycling. Never reuse a pesticide container for any purpose!
  • Be sure to wear protective clothing when rinsing pesticide containers, such as chemical resistant gloves and eye protection.
  • Apply rinse water according to label directions; only where the pesticide was intended to be used.
  • Do not pour rinse water into any drain or on any site not listed on the product label; it could contaminate the environment.
  • If you mixed or diluted a pesticide and you have a little too much left over, try to use it up while following the label. Consider asking a neighbor if they can use any leftover mixtures.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce the need for pesticides.
  • Identify the pest and make sure the product will be effective against that pest before buying the product.
  • Buy only what you need this season; mix only what you need today.

Tips for transporting pesticides for disposal:

  • Keep the pesticides in their original containers with the labels attached.
  • Place containers so they won’t shift and/or spill.
  • Line the transport area in your vehicle or place pesticides in a plastic bin to contain any spills in case of an accident.
  • If pesticides are carried in the back of an open vehicle, secure and cover the load.
  • Don’t put pesticides in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
  • Keep pesticides away from groceries, including food for animals.
  • Go straight to the collection site once you have loaded your vehicle. Drive carefully!

Additional Resources:

  • Safe Disposal of Pesticides – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Household Hazardous Waste – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Disposal Instructions on Non-Antimicrobial Residential or Household Use Pesticide Product Labels – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • State Clean Sweep Coordinators – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Proper Disposal of Pesticide Waste – University of Florida
  • What you need to know about Disposing of a Pesticide – Penn State University
  • Rinsing Pesticide Containers – University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Pesticide Container Cleaning and Disposal – Washington State University

Last updated January 28, 2020

Pest Patrol

Recently an elderly friend of mine acquired a pile of gardening supplies, including fertilizers and pesticides, which one of the residents in her condominium complex gave to her when she moved. I ended up inheriting it because my friend wasnt sure what to do with it. This led me to a frequent question I receive, What do I do with this stuff?

How to Handle Pesticides

It’s a good question, but I really want to take a few steps back to discuss how to handle these toxic items from the get go.

The first thing that I need to stress is to keep pesticides in their original containers. I’ve been in many old barns over the years, and am always concerned when I see bottles, jars, or other containers marked with herbicide or pesticide names. Not only does it eliminate the labels that show the warning, or make it more appealing for kids to take a swig out of a pop bottle that doesn’t have soda in it, I always wonder how the guy remembers how much to mix.

I know I couldn’t remember. I’m sure people do it when they buy a big container of something and share it. For example, Curtail is an herbicide that is approved for use on pastures where horses or other livestock are kept, and it frequently comes in 2 gallon containers. If someone needed to treat just a small area, I could see a friend giving them a small amount instead of having them buy a big jug for a lot of money. Practically, I can see why it happens, but it’s a dangerous habit.

Disposing of Toxic Chemicals

When it comes to disposing of anything you didn’t use or you no longer want, you don’t want to pour it down the drain or in a nearby storm sewer. That either runs into your septic (and might cause suspicion when all of the grass above the drain field dies), or into the water system of your entire community.

If there are problems with the birth control, antidepressants, and other medications people are using and ultimately eliminating naturally think about the potentially devastating effects pouring pesticides or herbicides could do. Along that same line of thought, you don’t want to just toss the chemicals into the trash, either, because you potentially endanger those who are handling it. Plus, landfills really aren’t the place to put the stuff. It just makes it a nastier bit of land.

The first option, such as in this recent occurrence, is to find a new home for it. Although Im not going to use the Malathion (an insecticide) and other chemicals I picked up, I have a friend who might. Ill ask her before I do anything else with it.
If I cant give it away, Ill call the county landfill to see when they have a date or time to drop off hazardous waste materials. Some counties have it available every day, others set aside specific times. Call your county disposal or your local Extension office to see when and where they take care of it.

In Montana, the Department of Agriculture also has special pesticide (not herbicide or fertilizer) pick up dates slated for throughout the year. This is primarily so some of the big farming operations can safely dispose of the chemicals, but homeowners can use it, too, and theyll gladly take a pound as well as 7000 lbs. (which they have!). Check with your own states department of agriculture to see if they have similar programs. When used in the appropriate matter, these types of chemicals can be very useful; however, once their function has passed, its important to properly dispose of them so theyre not a problem for everybody.

Where can I dispose of residential garden chemicals, like old pesticides?

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How Do I Get Rid of Old Pesticides?

By Chris Williams on September 3, 2014.

You just cleaned out your garage and discovered half a dozen containers of old garden pesticides that you didn’t even know were there. You know you shouldn’t just dump them in the trash. What do you do? There are three main sources of information regarding the disposal of old pesticide and pesticide containers.

Three Places to Get the Information You Need

1. Label of the Pesticide

(Your first source of information is on the label of the pesticide that you want to get rid of. The pesticide label must have a section that tells you how to dispose of leftover pesticide and also how to handle the empty container. Look for a heading on the label like “Storage and Disposal.”

2. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Your second source for disposal information is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA has established federal guidelines for the safe disposal of pesticides and containers (see How to Dispose of Old Pesticides—Advice From EPA). However, just knowing EPA’s rules is not always good enough since some states (and even communities) have adopted their own guidelines that are stricter than the federal requirements or the requirements on the label.

3. State Agency on Pesticide Issues

To check your state’s regulations, contact your state lead agency on pesticide issues. This agency may be an office in the state’s Department of Agriculture, or a separate division of Pesticide Regulation, Environmental Conservation or something similar. For example, in Massachusetts, you would contact the Pesticide Bureau of the MA Department of Food and Agriculture. In New Hampshire, it’s the Division of Pesticide Control of the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food. These state offices work closely with the regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency. If you can’t locate your state lead agency, check with your county Cooperative Extension Office.

  • Generally, if the pesticide container still contains pesticide, you should try to use it up according to the directions on the label.
  • If the container still contains some pesticide that you cannot safely use, it falls into the category of hazardous waste. Contact your local solid waste agency. To do so, look in the government section of your phone book under “solid waste,” “public works,” “refuse collection,” or similar. Many communities have a household hazardous waste collection program where you can dispose of chemicals like gasoline, antifreeze, and pesticides.
  • If the pesticide container is empty, put it in the trash unless the pesticide label specifies a different disposal. Many guidelines require that you triple-rinse empty pesticide containers before you put them in the trash.

Photo credit: jetsandzeppelins / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Where / when can I dispose of old pesticides ?
Your old pesticides will be accepted at one of our free Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and Electronic Waste (E-Waste) mobile Collection events. To view a schedule of the County’s upcoming collection events and to be notified of the events electronically (E-notify) visit our HHW schedule page by clicking on the provided link. Please keep in mind that it is illegal to transport more than 15 gallons or 125 pounds of hazardous waste at any given time.
In addition, the County of Los Angeles has partnered with the City of Los Angeles to allow all residents of Los Angeles County to drop off household hazardous waste at their permanent HHW/E-Waste Collection Centers in the communities of San Pedro, East Los Angeles, UCLA, Playa del Rey, Los Angeles/Glendale, and Sun Valley. Please visit the link below to view detailed information on the City of L.A.’s permanent centers.
County of L.A. HHW Schedule
City of L.A. Permanent Centers

Disposing of unwanted pesticides and chemicals

Winter months often find us making lists of things we want to get done prior to spring field work and planting. Now is a good time to consider how to safely dispose of old pesticides and chemicals.

The easiest way to manage pesticides is to plan on not having any leftovers. If you hire an ag retailer to spray your pesticides, the retailer will properly dispose of leftover materials. If you do your own spraying, planning in advance to manage the quantity of pesticide products or spray volume will help reduce leftover products. The Safe Farm Project, part of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has a fact sheet Work Toward Zero Pesticide Storage, that offers tips on minimizing the volume of pesticides stored on farms. The fact sheet is available as a free download.

If, despite careful planning, you have leftover pesticides, Iowa DNR provides a resource that may be able to help. Regional Collection Centers, referred to as RCCs, are permanent collection facilities designed to assist the public with proper management and disposal of household materials and hazardous wastes. RCCs accept specific types of materials through either a regional or local outlet or through contracted services. Almost all RCC facilities will accept pesticides from farms.

Just remember these tips:

  • Call your local RCC to make an appointment
    • Some smaller facilities are closed during winter
  • Provide a description of the type/amount of materials being disposed
  • Farms are considered a business by EPA and there are federal limits on the quantity that you can bring to an RCC
  • There will be a fee for the chemicals/pesticides.
    • When you call, the RCC should be able to provide an estimated cost.

Additional resources include:

You can find a list of fact sheets on how best to dispose of products from lead paint and used motor oil to other household chemical waste on this website.

Regional Collections Centers

On the Regional Collection Center Page, click on the interactive map for your county to access contact information.

If you live in a county without local RCC services you are encouraged to speak with your local ag retailer, or DNR by calling 515-725-8359 for additional options for safe pesticide disposal.

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