Why and How to Dispose of Pesticides Properly

— Written By Kaitlyn Lamaster
en Español / em Português

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Do you have any pesticide chemicals at home that you just don’t use? Whether they were inherited, found, or purchased and never used, storing pesticides properly can be a taxing task to undertake. You can learn more about storage from our Improving Storage and Handling of Pesticides publication.

If you have decided that you are ready to be rid of the responsibility of properly storing chemicals, there are a few more things you must do to appropriately dispose of excess pesticide chemicals.

Pesticides should never be dumped down the drain in sinks, streets, toilets, or sewers. Many municipal water treatment systems are unable to remove all pesticide residuals. This means that any pesticide chemicals that are dumped down the drain have a high likelihood of contaminating municipal water – meaning our drinking and washing supply.

Individuals should also refrain from dumping pesticides on the ground. This leaves the chemical to flow freely and contaminate surface waters like steams, ponds, and lakes, as well as groundwater. Groundwater is the water that is found underground in-between soil particles, cracks in bedrock, and spaces created from rocks and gravel. It is the water that contributes to wells and springs and is an important source for both public and private applications, providing up to 70% of the water used nationally for water supplies, irrigation, and industries. Once groundwater becomes contaminated it can be incredibly difficult to quite literally impossible to clean up and correct.

Improper disposal of pesticides threatens both natural water systems and our municipal, or drinking water, supplies. This has obvious repercussions, threatening to harm fish, plants, insects, humans, and other wildlife through the consumption or absorption of harmful chemicals.

It is the pesticide owner’s responsibility to ensure that chemicals are properly disposed of, which can come in multiple forms:

Use all pesticide as prescribed by the label:

If you are able to appropriately use the totality of your chemical until the container is gone, that will help minimize the inappropriate introduction of chemicals into the environment. Pesticides should always be applied according to the label, taking great care to avoid off-target application. Pesticides can also be given to individuals that will use the chemical in accordance to the law.

Take un-used chemical to a proper disposal site:

Some counties have a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program that accepts pesticides for disposal. Permanent HHW collection programs in North Carolina can be found at: Permanent Collection Sites

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program, a non-regulatory and cost-free program, which offers scheduled Pesticide Collection Days on a bi-annual basis in each county. Information on collection days can be found at: Collection Day Schedule

**Care should be taken when transporting pesticides by vehicle. Pesticides should not be carried in the passenger compartment of the vehicle and all caps, plugs, and stoppers should be checked before loading. After loading vehicle, drive carefully straight to disposal site. For more information and tips, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office.

Pay a private company to dispose of pesticide waste:

Internet searches will help find a local company in your area that is willing to contract out the disposal of chemical waste.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding pesticide disposal, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office.

More resources and information can be found at:

Pesticides in the Environment

Proper Disposal of Pesticide Waste

Pesticides and Pesticide Safety