The problem While few people see their homes or backyards as hazardous waste sites, that’s just where hazardous waste in the form of old, unusable or “obsolete” pesticides are found.DDT, dioxin-laced 2,4,5-T and compounds of arsenic, mercury or lead—all marvels in their day—are now banned because of their hazards to human health, wildlife or to the environment. Because federal law prohibits sale and use of obsolete pesticides, many Mainers are caught in a dilemma. Obsolete pesticides cannot be transported or disposed of without expensive permits and a federally licensed disposal facility willing to accept them.
Besides being illegal, disposing of obsolete pesticides in trash, sewers or by burial threatens ground water, a primary source or drinking water. These products also pose risks to sanitation workers, passersby and wildlife.
The Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) and the Department of Environmental Protection provide citizens with a responsible, free solution to their obsolete pesticide problem.Once a year, these agencies collect obsolete pesticides brought to sites across Maine. The materials are then shipped to out-of-state disposal facilities.Only banned pesticides and pesticides that have become caked, frozen or otherwise rendered unusable can be accepted. Pesticides that can be used legally are not eligible for collection.The program is available to homeowners as well as non-corporate farmers and greenhouse operators. Others should contact the BPC for arrangements.
How to participate
- Registration Form Instructions
- Option 1—fillable PDF file: Open the file, fill in the information, print it out, and mail it to the BPC (mailing address on the form).
- Option 2—Word file: Open the file, fill in the information, and
- either save it to your hard drive, attach it to an e-mail, and send it to email@example.com
— or —
- if your e-mail program allows it, send it directly from the open file to the BPC at the address above.
- Option 3—Request paper copy: Contact the BPC (207-287-2731, or the e-mail address above) to have a copy of the form mailed to you.
- On the registration form, identify the common name of the pesticide active ingredients shown on each product’s label. Common names are often listed on the front of the label followed by the chemical name. If the active ingredient is not listed, or is unreadable, please describe the product using the brand name, EPA registration number, or any other identifying information you can find on the label. Unidentified products without labels or markings should also be described in as much detail as possible.
- Store obsoletes properly until the next annual collection drive. The BPC will contact you several weeks prior to that drive to inform you of your local collection date and location. Can’t make an upcoming drive? No problem...the BPC will keep your name on file for the next collection.
- After your inventory form is received, the BPC will mail a map and instructions 10 days before your collection date.
- Bring your obsoletes to the assigned site. Once there, stay in your vehicle and present shipping papers to officials. They will direct you to place obsoletes in an appropriate receptacle.
Examples of common active ingredients that are no longer legal to sell:
- calcium arsenate
- lead arsenate
- sodium arsenite
Examples of older chemicals that may have become congealed, solidified or otherwise rendered unusable:
- copper sulfate
In addition to banned or unusable pesticides, the BPC accepts chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and diazinon products labeled for household use. The EPA has phased out home, lawn and garden use of these common insecticides in order to protect children’s health.
Proper storage before collection
Until you are able to take advantage of the collection program, sound storage practice remains the best—and only—way to prevent an environmental or health crisis from occurring in your backyard.
- Keep pesticides high, dry and locked up away from children and pets.
- Dry materials should be free of moisture, wrapped in heavy duty plastic bags.
- Liquid materials in glass bottles in good condition require no special attention other than to store beyond reach of children.
- Rusting metal cans must be wrapped in plastic bags and placed into rubber or plastic trash containers. Surround wrapped pesticides with kitty litter, newspaper, vermiculite or other absorbent material. Be sure secondary containers have labels identifying contents.
- If a bottle, bag or other container leaks, call the Department of Environmental Protection for advice on proper cleanup.
- Dry materials must be wrapped in plastic bags and placed in cardboard cartons or plastic buckets. Liquids must be put into plastic containers with newspaper.
- Never transport pesticides in the cab or interior of your vehicle. Use the truck’s bed or the car’s trunk.
- Be sure to attach labels to containers. Unlabeled materials will not be accepted at the collection site.
- Brace items in your vehicle’s bed or trunk to prevent shifting while en route.
- Cover loads in open-bed trucks in case of rain.
- Sign both copies of the “shipping papers.” Keep one copy in the vehicle and the other on yourself in case an accident requires you leave the vehicle and inform authorities. Note phone numbers for fire and police.
- Drive directly to the pesticide collection site after you load your vehicle.
- Drive carefully, please! You are responsible for any spills and their subsequent clean up and restoration costs.
The best way to prevent stockpiling future obsolete pesticides is to buy the right product only in quantities needed to do a given job.
- Know your pest. Not sure? Call the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Pest Management Office, 800-287-0279.
- Make sure the product you buy controls the pest. If the pest is not listed on a product’s label, the product’s not for you!
- Avoid volume and buy-one-get-one-free promotions. The dollar or two saved today can cost hundreds later in hazardous waste disposal costs. Surplus pesticides can be a storage problem as well.
- Keep products in good condition. Don’t let liquids freeze or moisture damage dry materials.
- Give recently purchased pesticides you no longer need to someone who does. The best way to dispose of a pesticide is to use it according to its labeled directions.
Who to call
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
The latest information on pests and pest control recommendations.
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Pesticide and other hazardous materials spill response.
Northern New England Poison Center
24-hour hotline for information on poisoning.
Maine Board of Pesticides Control
Information on obsolete pesticide disposal or any pesticide matter.
Other options for disposal Current alternatives to the BPC program:
Comments from participants
- Letter from Elizabeth Ashe Snow [Word or PDF]