pesticide.jpg Pesticides and insecticides are dangerous chemicals that must be handled with care. While they cannot be recycled, you do need to come up with a good disposal plan for them. Keep reading for tips on dealing with any leftover pesticides and insecticides.

What is pesticide?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pesticide is “a chemical used to prevent, destroy or repel pests. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, weeds, fungi, or microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.” If you are cleaning out someone else’s garden shed, or engaged in another activity where you find bags of stuff and don’t know what they are, the EPA’s website has a handy link of many different names for pesticides. It can help you determine exactly what you have on your hands.

What is insecticide?

Insecticides are chemicals specifically intended to kill insects. Creepy-crawlies can cause serious damage to food crops and flowers, which is why so many farmers and home gardeners are desperate to get rid of them.

Why should you recycle pesticide and insecticide?

Pesticides and insecticides are poisons. And while they are supposed to poison animals and bugs, they can also poison humans and animals. It is very important to keep them out of the waste stream. Broken bags or spilled bottles can leak into waterways and contaminate soil. It is also illegal to landfill or incinerate pesticides and insecticides in most states. California, Oregon and North Carolina are a few examples of states that ban pesticides from trash cans. There are organic and non-organic pesticides and insecticides. The only difference is that organic pesticides and insecticides come from natural sources, while non-organic chemicals come are synthetically made (often from petroleum products). While many people think of organic products as being “safer,” these pesticides and insecticides are still very dangerous to human and animal health. They need to be disposed of in the same manner as non-organic products.

How to recycle pesticides and insecticides

While pesticides and insecticides cannot technically be recycled, it is vital to dispose of them in an environmentally-friendly manner. Do not place them in your trash can, put them down the kitchen sink or toilet, bury them or burn them. The first thing you should do is try to use up any pesticides or insecticides you have on hand. If you cannot use everything in the container, see if a friend or neighbor can use your leftovers. If the bottle still contains liquid or powder when you are ready to dispose of it, read the label to determine if there are any special instructions. The manufacturer may have tips about the best way to safety get rid of the product. In almost all cases you will need to take any leftover pesticides and insecticides to your local household hazardous waste (HHW) program. Every county should have a method for dealing with HHW, although the availability of these centers varies widely from place to place. Residents of Boulder can drop off their HHW every week on regular collection days. Houston’s HHW center is open three days a month. Your city or county should have a website that will provide you with more details about how HHW collection works in your area. It is also worth asking if your community has any pesticide or insecticide collection events, or if there is a mobile HHW collection unit. Seattle and San Antonio are among the cities that offer this service.

How to recycle pesticide and insecticide bottles

Being a good recycler, you are probably tempted to place empty plastic or glass bottles that contained pesticides or insecticides in your curbside recycling bin. But these products are so dangerous you should not do that, even if you have rinsed the bottle well. Unless the label on the product directs you otherwise, plan to place all empty pesticide and insecticide bottles in the trash. Do not rinse them before you do it; you do not want to put any pesticides or insecticides down your sink.

Tips for reducing pesticides and insecticides

Scientists have long advocated using a method called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce the need for pesticides and insecticides. IPM is based on the theory that there are many ways to control pests besides chemicals. There are several different components to IPM. One is prevention, which encourages people to plant healthy, regionally appropriate plants that will not attract pests in the first place. Another is mechanic controls such as weeding by hand, setting up insect and rodent traps, or placing nets over bushes to keep birds and deer away. People can use cultural controls, such as changing watering practices so weeds are less likely to grow. And there are biological controls, which utilize natural predators to take care of pests (for example, ladybugs to eat aphids on roses). Your local Master Gardener office can provide you with more information on IPM. There is also plenty of information about it online. There are home remedies you can use to get rid of insects. Cayenne pepper or diatomaceous earth can keep ants away. Putting a drop of dish soap in a bowl of vinegar and sugar will kill fruit flies. Use traps that yellow jacket can enter but not escape during the summer months. Likewise, there are natural methods that may deter animals from entering your home and garden. Blood meal may chase away rabbits, deer and chipmunks. The smell of daffodil bulbs and castor beans may deter moles. A really good fence (perhaps one dug down into the ground) will keep out almost anything.