Unused and outdated pesticides pose a serious threat of fire, explosions and pollution to farmers across the country. But not in Arkansas, thanks to the Arkansas Agricultural Abandoned Pesticide Program. This initiative allows local farmers to safely dispose of unneeded pesticides at no cost to them.
In 2005, the State Plant Board, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Farm Bureau, Natural Resources Commission and Department of Environmental Quality formed an advisory board that schedules and hosts periodic pesticide collections, totaling at least 10 annually.
Currently, there has been one collection event in each of the 75 counties across the state. This allows farmers to bring their unwanted pesticides to a convenient location in their area.
Since the program began, it has safely disposed of 1.9 million pounds of pesticides in Arkansas. That’s more than the combined weight of 120 elephants.
“It’s an incredible program,” says Mike Thompson, the Arkansas State Plant Board’s pesticide division director. “In the ‘50s and ‘60s, people bought pesticides by the ton. A lot of those were dry dust materials. When the EPA bans a pesticide or they are replaced with better versions, farmers don’t know what to do with them, and they might just store them in a barn for years.”
Before the Abandoned Pesticide Program, in order for farmers to get rid of their outdated pesticides, the cost was astronomical, not to mention time consuming.
“If you had several tons of chemicals that your parents left there, and you check with a hazardous waste facility and you figure it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to dispose of it, you’re probably just going to leave it there,” Thompson says. “This program was created to avoid improper disposal of these pesticides.
“It’s funded by the very chemical industry whose products are being picked up,” Thompson says. “They pay $50 per chemical they register in Arkansas. Because of this, we are able to serve all 75 counties every three-and-a-half years. It’s a sustainable program.”
Thompson says the program is celebrated by both regulatory agencies and agricultural organizations.
“There’s really no downside to this,” he says. “Regulatory work is not always perceived as being positive, but this program has a bright side for everyone.”