New county partnership helps pesticide disposal program

by | Apr 19, 2021

The NCDA&CS Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program (PDAP) hardly collected any pesticides in the first half of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the 2020 annual collection total was the seventh-most in the program’s 41-year history. That’s because, in the second half of the year, the program set a record for most pounds of pesticides collected in a six-month period.

“Demand is there, and this stuff doesn’t just disappear, just because we’re not collecting,” said Derrick Bell, who heads the PDAP. “People wait, and then we get inundated with volume like we did last fall.

Bell said if the pesticides do just “disappear” they’re likely being disposed of improperly in places like the trash, fields, ditches or other waterways. That’s exactly what the Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program is designed to avoid. It helps farmers and homeowners dispose of banned, outdated or unwanted pesticides/herbicides. The goal is to protect human health and the environment by reducing the potential contamination of soil, water, and air from leaking containers, spills, and illegal dumping or burning

“When people have the right option, they want to do the right thing,” Bell said. “But if they don’t have the right option they start to find ways to get rid of it.”

The Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program helps coordinate drop-off events across the state such as this one in Jackson County.

For many years, PDAP has arranged special pesticide collection days in counties throughout the state. Anyone with pesticides to dispose of can drop them off at a specific site that PDAP set up that day. Those collection days continue, but Bell says as the collection volume has increased so has the cost of running the program. So he’s taken advantage of opportunities to partner with local counties that have established permanent household hazardous waste collection programs. Brunswick County is the latest example.

Like other counties, Brunswick County got began years ago collecting household hazardous waste such as paint, pesticides, car fluids, pool chemicals, etc. only during special collection days. PDAP provided assistance with those days. Now the county is one of only 22 North Carolina counties that has set a regular schedule to collect household hazardous waste at the county landfill. Pesticides/herbicides are included in what can be collected. PDAP has partnered with 16 of those 22 counties that have permanent household hazardous waste collection.

That means the county pays a contractor to collect most of the household hazardous waste, but PDAP sponsors collections of any pesticides that are dropped off. PDAP pays the contractor directly for those pesticide collections. So PDAP can provide the service without having to set up its own pesticide collection day in that area. It also saves PDAP money because a state-wide volume and contract means a collection/disposal contractor offers the pesticide disposal at a much cheaper rate.

“It’s a good way for us to provide a service to a county’s citizens and not need to be on site,” Bell said

As a result, Bell and the two other NCDA&CS employees who run PDAP (Ken Crabtree and Jeremy Maciejewski) can focus time, manpower and other resources on the many other counties that don’t have household hazardous waste collection efforts or only have one day each year for that type of collection. While PDAP continues to host its own pesticide collection days throughout the state, the program also sponsors pesticide collection for about 20 counties on their once-a-year county-run collection days. Sponsoring those one-day events in another way PDAP is using local partnerships to stretch its service.

The assistance that PDAP provides has proven to be a real asset to counties, whether they need help with annual collection days or if they’re transitioning to permanent household hazardous waste collection. The PDAP team has helped counties figure out the logistics of collections such as what collection/disposal contractors are available. Also, because the PDAP team works with counties across the state, they’ve been able to connect county leaders so that one county with an established program can help another county looking to establish single-day or permanent household hazardous waste collections.

“My experience working with Derrick has been impeccable to say the least,” said Micki Bozeman, the solid waste and recycling coordinator for Brunswick County. “When I mentioned to Derrick that we were finally opening a more permanent facility in the county, he was 100 percent supportive and has helped in every way possible.

Bell and Bozeman see the county partnerships as a win-win. Again, it helps PDAP stretch resources to accomplish proper pesticide disposal, and it’s more economical when a county switches to having permanent household hazardous waste collection. The collection days that are only once or twice a year can attract a lot of people with hazardous materials to dispose of all at once. When the poundage for disposal gets large, it’s more expensive for a contractor to take away than it would be to collect the waste in smaller batches on a schedule throughout the year.

“For single-day household hazardous waste events, people come out of the woodwork thinking this may be their only chance to properly dispose of what they have,” Bell said. “Being able to provide that opportunity from a permanent facility standpoint helps people reduce the urgency, so they can carry it safely and securely to a collection site when the time is right for them.”

Bozeman sees the benefits for county governments and citizens as well.

“The cost savings as well as the safe disposal is a great service,” Bozeman said. “This program is a blessing to all North Carolina residents and farmers.”