I am not pointing fingers here, there was a time when I was just as guilty of improper storage practices as anyone. If you happened to find yourself in my garden shed years ago, it would look a lot different than it does today. Back then, I’m sorry to say, the shelves were a storehouse for every pesticide, herbicide, fungicide and fertilizer a gardener like me, in pursuit of the perfect landscape, would have on hand to handle any real or potential problem.
With age often comes wisdom, and over the years I’ve come around 180 degrees and my desire for the picture-perfect garden has long since waned, yielding to more enjoyable and earth-friendly ways. Now my shed is not only cleaner, it’s safer too.
An extreme case, but unfortunately, it happens all too frequently. I’ve personally known of several such instances. What makes stories like this even harder is that they were easily preventable. In no case should any chemical be stored, even for a moment, in a container other than the one it originally came in. Fortunately, there are several precautions we can take to ensure accidents like those described don’t happen under our watch.
Always follow storage instructions listed on packaging and labels and keep the national Poison Control phone number handy. It is 1 (800) 222-1222. The following are some suggestions from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Always store pesticides in their original containers. In addition to the proper identification of the contents, important safely information specific to that product is listed on the container. Such information includes what to do if accidental poisoning takes place, emergency contact numbers and necessary first aid steps.
- Keep pesticides stored out of reach of children and pets. When possible, store them in a locked but ventilated cabinet. Even if you don’t have children, you never know when a curious person may happen upon them. Be safe and take the path of caution.
- Pesticides should never be stored in the same location as food, medical supplies or animal feed.
- Use child-resistant packaging correctly. Be sure to close containers tightly and properly after use. Just because a product says ‘resistant’, that does not make if child-proof. These products should receive the same care and caution when storing as any other.
- Don’t stockpile chemicals. Only buy what you will use that session or season. The less pesticide remaining after it is needed, the lower the risk of accidents.
- Pesticides should be stored away from places where flooding is possible or where spills or leaks could run into drains, surface water or water sheds.
- Never store pesticides in the application equipment. To avoid the problem of having excess product, only mix what is needed for that application. If excess mixture remains after application, apply where appropriate to other parts of your property
I’ve managed to do a pretty good job over the years eliminating chemicals from my garden shed. Yet despite my best efforts, they tend to keep showing up. I’ve accumulated pesticide containers from a prior gardening life, inherited my dad’s collection when he moved and even uncovered a stockpile after moving into my current home.
It’s scary to think how many people are out there like me…or worse (at least in this case). I really have worked hard to properly dispose of the chemicals that I will never use again. But it’s amazing how quickly they add up. Collectively I can only imagine how many leftover containers are sitting around the sheds, garages, and landfills of the world!
In our very busy and time-starved lives, it would be easy to pour the excess liquids out into the street or down a drain. But we know better than that, don’t we? Pesticides poured into the street feed directly into storm drains which feed into streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. When pesticides reach waterways, they can harm fish, plants and other living things.
Similarly, they should never be poured down the sink, tub, toilet, or into the sewer or street drain. Pesticides can interfere with the operation of wastewater treatment systems and many municipal systems are not even equipped to remove all pesticide residues.
So, what can we do to dispose of chemicals properly and safely? According to the EPA, it is suggested the best way to dispose of small amounts of excess pesticides is to use them, apply them (according to the directions on the label) or give them to your neighbor so they can use them to treat a similar pest control problem. Although this is certainly a valid way to consume the product, I find it hard to suggest using more pesticide chemicals in your landscape simply to use it up.
Don't toss your hazardous waste in the garbage - dispose of it for free in San Marcos! The City of San Marcos hosts collections for household hazardous waste for Hays County residents twice per week at the City Hall traffic yard (634 East Hopkins - Across from the big HEB) on Tuesday and Friday from noon until 3:30 p.m. This is only for residential waste - no commercial waste is accepted. Also, there is a telephone number that you can call to find information and sites for recycling and disposing of hazardous household waste. The number is 1-800-CLEANUP. An automated recording will guide you through the process and the number is accessible 24/7.
Of course, you can always (and should always) read the product label for disposal information. However, be aware that state and/or local laws may be more restrictive than the Federal requirements listed on the label. You should check with your local authorities before disposing according only to information listed on the product label.
According to the EPA, empty containers can be disposed of with your other solid waste after proper rinsing. A triple rinse is suggested before disposing. First, fill the container ¼ full of water, close the lid tightly and vigorously shake. The rinse water should be applied to an area needing treatment. Never pour the contents down the sink. Repeat the process two more times. Do not triple rinse pesticide containers in a kitchen sink.