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Disposing of hazardous agrichemicals

Atrazine - an agrichemical

Agrichemicals include:

  • pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides)
  • fertilisers
  • stock supplements.

Not all agrichemicals are hazardous, for example some stock supplements, but pesticides are hazardous because they are designed to be toxic.

Some pesticides, such as organochlorines, haven’t been used since the 1980s, but take many years (typically decades) to break down. Organochlorines tend to stay in the environment, entering the food chain and gradually concentrating in the fat of some animals. Over time these pesticides accumulate inside humans and other animals, and can have a range of toxic effects.

The most well known organochlorine is DDT, which can affect the nervous system and reproductive organs of poisoned animals. For example, DDT causes eggshell thinning in birds.

Waikato Regional Council's involvement in unwanted agrichemical collections

Since 1 July 2009, territorial authorities handle the Waikato region's agrichemical collections. Waikato Regional Council will only get involved if there has been a spill.  

To date, Waikato Regional Council, with assistance from the Ministry for the Environment and the district councils, has recovered more than 120 tonnes of unwanted agrichemicals from the Waikato region. This includes approximately 70 tonnes of intractable material and 5 tonnes of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Quantities of unwanted agrichemicals recovered by district (all values in kg)

District Quantity  recovered via active collections Quantity recovered via transfer station reception facilities Total recovered
Franklin 1.7 No reception facilities 1.7
Waikato 22.8* 5.1 27.9
Thames-Coromandel 2.8 0.5 3.3
Hauraki 2.1 3.7 5.8
Matamata-Piako 8.5 4.5 13.0
Hamilton City * 6.4 6.4
Waipa 15.6 3.7 17.9
Otorohanga 9.2 No reception facilities 9.2
Waitomo 8.9 4.5 13.5
South Waikato 5.3 3.8 9.1
Rotorua 4.4 No reception facilities 4.4
Taupo 5.4 2.3 7.7
Totals 86.7 34.6 121.3
* 1992 Hamilton City collection data was combined with Waikato district data

There may still be between 32 and 36 tonnes of unwanted agrichemicals in our region. However, this is hard to estimate so the problem may be much larger, especially because new products are becoming ‘unwanted agrichemicals’ on a regular basis.

The big collection

Between April 1992 and December 1994, 62 tonnes of hazardous agrichemicals were collected from 1,567 (around 12 percent) of the region’s farms. The collection was run with the help of district and city councils, health authorities, the fire service, Federated Farmers, chemical manufacturers and community groups.

Independent surveys found that these materials had often been inappropriately stored. When the chemical collection began, chemicals were found in:

  • unlocked sheds
  • un-labelled or leaking containers
  • sheds next to stock feed or ground water wells.

Some farmers who had chemicals for collection said they’d dumped chemicals in the past because there were no other affordable disposal options.

Of the 62 tonnes collected between April 1992 and December 1994:

  • 24 tonnes (39 percent) were redistributed for reuse for the purposes they were licensed for.
  • 17 tonnes (27 percent) were treated and disposed of.
  • Four tonnes (six percent) were returned to the manufacturer.
  • 17 tonnes (27 percent) were put into long-term storage and exported to Europe for incineration at a specialised hazardous waste incinerator in 1999.

How you can dispose of unwanted agrichemicals

Waikato Regional Council doesn’t collect or assist with collection anymore, but we can answer any questions or give advice to landowners who want to know more about disposing of agrichemicals.

To dispose of your agrichemicals, you should contact either your local territorial authority (who may accept the material at the local transfer station or landfill) or Agrecovery.