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Chemicals: storing and disposing safely

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last updated Mar 27, 2014
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Chemicals need to be stored and disposed of thoughtfully. Image: RHS/John Trenholm

Garden chemicals should be used with care to minimise impact on ourselves, wildlife and the environment. Their safe storage and disposal is equally important and often overlooked, but some simple guidelines are all that is needed.

Storing garden chemicals Back to top

  • Store pesticides in a cool, frost free location out of reach of children and pets, avoiding sunny positions where liquids may vaporise or product labels become bleached
  • Store powders, granules and dusts above liquids, as this eliminates the chance of liquid leaking onto soluble materials, resulting in possible reactions
  • Store fertilisers and other sundries separately from pesticides to avoid accidental misuse
  • Although concentrates will store for two years or more if kept in cool, dark conditions, ready-to-use sprays are more economical for smaller areas, requiring no mixing and keeping just as long. Diluted concentrate can become ineffective after just 24 hours

Disposing of garden chemicals Back to top

If you find you have to dispose of garden chemicals, follow these guidelines:

Avoid making excess solution

When making up solutions from concentrates fill a watering can or jug rather than diluting in the sink or with the use of a hose pipe. Make up less solution than you believe is required, as it is far easier to mix up more than it is to find additional areas to apply excess spray to.

If you do find you have left over solution after spraying, you will have to find a patch of permitted plants or weeds to spray the excess onto. Excess solution should never be poured down the drain or onto bare soil, as it will contribute to the build up of chemical residues in the ground water.

Disposing of empty containers

Empty pesticide and weedkiller containers which have held concentrated liquids (ie: those requiring dilution before use), should be rinsed three times, adding the washings to the final spray solution. The empty container can then be placed in the household waste.

Empty pesticide and weedkiller containers that have held Ready-to-Use products can now be recycled, following the findings of a Defra research project and report on the recycling of home gardener pesticide containers. Note this does not apply to containers containing concentrate (see above).

Disposing of surplus chemicals

Never dispose of surplus pesticide or weedkiller down drains or in watercourses. If disposal is unavoidable, small quantities should be diluted and sprayed onto permitted plants according to the label instructions, avoiding ponds, watercourses and ditches, and following label recommendations for avoiding harm to wildlife.

With the recent withdrawal of many garden chemicals, gardeners may possess surplus stocks of pesticides that they are legally not allowed to use. When pesticides are withdrawn from the market for economic reasons there is usually a two-year grace period in which to use up remaining stocks. More information on which products are withdrawn or approved can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Contact your local authority's waste disposal section for disposal of larger quantities of out-of-date, surplus, or withdrawn pesticides, as they can advise on which household sites will accept chemicals. Locate your nearest local authority chemical disposal facility on the Pesticide Action Network website or Crop Protection Association website.

When taking surplus, withdrawn, or out-of-date chemicals to a waste disposal facility, ensure that containers are carefully sealed and clearly labelled with the name and active ingredient of the product. Do not mix different chemicals.

If you come across old pesticides or unlabelled containers (when purchasing a new property, for example) again contact your local authority's waste disposal section. 

Tips Back to top

  • Prior to purchasing pesticides, check the product is effective in controlling the individual pest, disease or weed you intend to treat
  • Avoid purchasing more than you will use up in a year
  • Never decant pesticides into other containers as the product label holds vital information regarding its active ingredient/s, registration numbers, method of application, dosage rate, and most importantly the problem it combats. This information is also crucial to the emergency services should any accidents occur

Quick facts

Top tips:

  • Check the product will control your problem before purchase
  • Avoid buying more than you will use in a year
  • Always keep chemicals in their original containers
  • Store chemicals in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight
  • Keep chemicals out of reach of children and pets
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