How to Recycle Pesticides & Fertilizers

An Overview On Recycling Pesticides & Fertilizers

From mosquitoes to mice, handling outdoor (and indoor) pests can be a challenge if you’re trying to cultivate a greener home. Purging your gardening shed of chemical pesticides is definitely a good idea if you want to protect your family and the other creatures living in your community - after all, there are more than 110,000 pesticide poisonings in the US every year![1] Not only that, but pesticides that are dumped into waterways or the trash can poison animals and fish alike, causing serious illness or even death. So what do you do with all of those leftover toxic pesticides without harming the environment or your family? Our guide to the proper disposal of pesticides and fertilizers is the place to start.


How to identify toxic pesticides and fertilizers

Considered household hazardous waste (HHW), pesticides need to be handled carefully in order to avoid environmental contamination and accidental poisonings. So how do you know whether your particular brand of pest control product is hazardous? Generally, any conventional products that fall into one of these categories are considered HHW:

  • Chemical fertilizers
  • Chemical insect repellents
  • Chemical pesticides
  • Flea collars and sprays
  • Fungus control chemicals
  • Moth balls
  • Rat and mouse poisons
  • Weed killers

If you want to do a thorough household hazardous waste audit to determine what you should throw away, go through this Home Hazardous Product Survey. And for a very thorough list of products that may contain hazardous ingredients, see the Purdue University Glossary of Products with Hazards A to Z.


Reduce your need for pesticides and fertilizers

The best way to prevent the need for pesticide and fertilizer disposal is to choose methods for controlling pests that are chemical-free. These non-toxic pest control options are a good place to start:

  • Use integrated pest management techniques
  • Choose non-toxic, natural, organic pest products
  • Plant native species in your yard which will be naturally more resistant to pests
  • Properly store things that will attract pests, including bird seed, grass seed, kitchen scraps, garbage, etc) to eliminate the temptation of pests to take up residence in your outdoor environment
  • Buy only as much product as you need and can use up in one year
  • If mixing chemicals for application, mix-up only as much as you require for the job at hand (better to be short than to mix too much)


The don’ts of pesticide/fertilizer disposal

Improper disposal of pesticides and fertilizers can result in accidental poisonings of children, pets, and wildlife, so it’s important that you avoid certain habits when getting rid of leftover pesticides:

  • Don’t flush them down the toilet, sink, or sewer drain
  • Don’t bury them in the backyard
  • Don’t burn them under any circumstances in a burn bin or a bonfire
  • Don’t put pesticides or fertilizers in the trash can unless the label says it is safe to do so
  • Never mix two or more different substances together


How to properly recycle of pesticides and fertilizers

Given the toxic nature of most chemical pesticides and fertilizers, safe disposal is a must for any green gardener. Thankfully, the safe disposal of these harmful toxins is becoming increasingly easy, especially if you follow these guidelines:

  • HHW collection:Many communities now have either periodical or year-round HHW collection sites where you can drop off everything from unused paint to pesticides to cleaning products. Check our recycling database for a list of resources for finding a program in your area. If your community lacks a HHW collection day, start one yourself!
  • Landfill options:Some solid waste management authorities handle HHW by collecting it at the dump sites directly. Call your local sanitation office to find out if they have such a program.
  • Don’t forget the container:According to the US EPA and the UK Health and Safety Executive, pesticide containers are recyclable, though they often have to go through special recycling treatments. It’s best to take these empty containers to the HHW collection sites for separate recycling.



1  Ecological Management of Invasive Weeds . (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2010, from Beyond Pesticides:

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