Pesticides help us control insects (insecticides), plants (herbicides), rodents (rodenticides), molds (fungicides), and germs (disinfectants) around our homes and gardens. Pesticides are so effective that American households use about 59 million pounds of them each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But their convenience comes at a price. Exposure to these hazardous chemicals can damage the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system and increase the risk of cancer. When improperly disposed – in the trash, poured out into the environment or down the drain, or kept in storage for long periods of time – pesticides threaten wildlife and the quality of our drinking water sources.
PSI advocates nationally for “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) laws, which require producers to fund and manage safe disposal of their products. The success of EPR laws for paint and other hard-to-manage products has sparked interest in EPR for household hazardous waste (HHW), including pesticides.
EPR programs make it easy for consumers to safely dispose of pesticides at convenient locations. EPR programs also alleviate the financial burden on governments and taxpayers by ensuring sustainable funding for collection, disposal, and public outreach.
While a legislated EPR program for HHW doesn’t yet exist in the U.S., such programs have been operating successfully in Canada since the 1990s. Manitoba’s program increased HHW collection volumes by 419% in the first five years of the program. In British Columbia, HHW collection volumes increased by 365% and collection sites increased by 63% between 2001 and 2017.
After paint, pesticides are the most costly HHW product for governments to handle. Although most states run pesticide disposal programs, many operate intermittently, do not have dedicated funding, and lack the resources for sustained public outreach.
How We’re Leading the Way
PSI helps our members and partners craft HHW EPR legislation and lobby for its passage. In recent years, we have submitted testimony and worked closely with our members in Oregon and Vermont to support HHW EPR bills that cover pesticides.
PSI conducts research and evaluates HHW and pesticide stewardship programs to inform and shape product stewardship policy. We developed a national Pesticide Stewardship Briefing Document that lays out a framework to help governments and other stakeholders pursue solutions for the safe management of both household and agricultural pesticides. PSI has also analyzed several existing Canadian HHW EPR programs, to understand best practices for pesticide disposal.
Check with your local solid waste management authority, environmental agency, or health department to find out whether your community has a program to safely get rid of unwanted and leftover pesticides.