Pesticides - Best Practice Guides


Pesticide Disposal

Why Pesticide Disposal Matters?

Using pesticides according to the label and following best practice will ensure their impact on the environment is minimised. However there is clear evidence that poor practice when handling and mixing pesticides, cleaning up and disposing of  wastes after spraying pollutes surface and groundwater.

More legal controls are being introduced to protect the environment. Since 1999 any disposal to land of surplus spray and washings that does not take place “in the crop” has required a “Groundwater Authorisation” from the local office of the environment agency. New farm waste regulations* are expected to be implemented early in 2006. These will prohibit the burning or burial of pesticide containers in England and Wales. Different arrangements apply in Northern Ireland and Scotland. (*The Waste Management (England and Wales) Regulations)

Pesticide users should monitor the farming press for announcements of any changes; the new code of practice for using plant protection products (due early 2006) remains the principal source of advice on this topic; however all users should use a “Crop Protection Management Plan” to review their operations and to ensure that they comply with the law and follow best practice when disposing of pesticide wastes.

Keep Water Clean
  • Never let pesticides enter streams and watercourses;
  • Never pour pesticide in any form (including pack washings) into soakaways, sewers, drains, ditches or rivers etc.

Minimise Waste Production

To reduce difficulties with disposal the best approach is to minimise waste production.

  • Order enough product to do the job in hand and no more;
  • Buy products in the largest practical container sizes;
  • Store products in good order;
  • Use internal sprayer, tank-cleaning units and container rinsing devices;
  • Choose products which minimise or eliminate contaminated packaging waste;
  • Keep careful records of the movement of stock in and out of the agrochemical store; rotate stock on the "first-in, first-out" principle.
  • Carefully calculate required quantities needed and mix just enough to complete a task, no more
  • Avoid being caught out by changes in the weather

Users may generate four types of waste: Surplus Spray and Washings, Empty Containers, Waste from Spills and Unwanted Pesticides. This Guide gives basic advice on the disposal of these wastes. Seek further advice from your agronomist or your local environment agency office.

Disposal of Surplus Spray and Washings

There are four recognised solutions which are discussed in more detail in the CPA’s Best Practice Guide on Pesticide Handling Areas:

  1. In the Crop - Groundwater Authorisation Not Required
    Empty the sprayer out in the field being treated by spraying out on to a relatively weed or pest free part of the field left unsprayed or under-dosed for the purpose. Do not exceed the maximum dose approved for the crop.
  2. Grass Area - Groundwater Authorisation Required*
    Spray washings out on to an uncropped grassed area (not fallow or stubble) of minimal wildlife value. Ensure this is well away from waterways, ditches and ponds, drains and environmentally sensitive areas and that it is not liable to surface run-off or leaching.
  3. Biobed - Lined Biobeds are preferred and should not require a Groundwater Authorisation. Unlined Biobeds will require an authorisation.* Spray washings can be drained to a drive-over or offset Biobed.
  4. Fully Contained Washdown Area - Groundwater Authorisation Not Required
    Spray washings are drained to tank and then sent for professional disposal.
  5. Fully Contained Washdown Area with a Sentinel Treatment Facility - Consult local environment agency
    Spray washings are drained to a tank and then treated using a Sentinel treatment plant prior to disposal. A Groundwater Authorisation is not generally required but the local environment agency needs to be consulted.

* Such sites require an Authorisation under the Groundwater Regulations and may only be used following approval by the local environment agency. Authorisation will only be granted if the local environment agency are satisfied there is no risk of surface or groundwater contamination.

Disposal of Empty Containers

Container Cleaning - Essential for recycling or economic disposal

  • Always empty and clean containers before disposal;
  • Do not rinse containers that have held sodium cyanide or aluminium, magnesium or zinc phosphides. Fill these containers with dry earth, sand or other inert material instead of rinsing;
  • Clean all containers and foil seals thoroughly and drain the washings into the spray tank;
  • Use pressure rinsing devices or triple rinsing with water to reduce any pesticide residues in the container to insignificant levels;
  • Store empty containers upright with lids in place awaiting disposal in a dedicated secure compound;
  • Read the CPA Guide on "Container Cleaning" for more detailed advice.

New Farm Waste Regulations

New waste regulations are expected to be implemented in early 2006. These mean that burning (including the drum incinerator) of waste on farm and use of farm tips will be illegal in England and Wales. Waste disposal on farm will have to be licensed but this is unlikely to be a practical, economic or acceptable for pesticide disposal. Similar changes to farm waste legislation are also taking place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Check with relevant environment agency and see the CPA Guide on Pesticide Container Disposal

Pesticide Container Disposal

  • Waste disposal and recycling contractors will take cleaned containers and there will be a charge for this service. The charges will depend on the cleanliness of the containers and the range and nature of service offered.
    A website provides details of possible waste and recycling contractors serving the agricultural and horticultural sectors
  • Licensed disposal sites will generally accept cleaned and punctured or crushed containers, subject to the site’s conditions allowing acceptance of such waste.
  • For more information see the CPA Guide on Pesticide Container Disposal

Disposal of Spillage Wastes

  • Spillages should be cleaned up thoroughly with absorbent material (eg sand, cat litter). All contaminated wastes should be treated as unwanted pesticide and sent for professional disposal via a reputable waste disposal contractor.

Disposal of Unwanted or Obsolete Pesticides

  • Check agrochemical stores at least once a year, if not more often. Look for containers that are losing their labels, products which are no longer needed because of cropping changes, part-filled or deteriorating containers and products that are no longer approved.
  • Your local distributor may consider taking back sound unopened containers with complete and up-to-date label instructions. Alternatively, a neighbouring farm may be willing to take such products if it is still growing crops for which the products are approved.
  • Contact details on the pesticide disposal contractors who participated in the Obsolete Pesticide Disposal Campaign in the winter of 2003/4 can be found on the Voluntary Initiative website: Alternatively, contact a registered waste disposal contractor. These can be found in Yellow Pages.

The advice in this Guide has been prepared after consultation with the Pesticides Safety Directorate, HSE and the UK environment agencies.
This guide was produced by the Crop Protection Association as part of The Voluntary Initiative.
The Voluntary Initiative is a programme of measures agreed by Government to minimise the environmental impact of pesticides.

(C) Voluntary Initiative November 2005

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