Kāpiti can reduce the hazards of unwanted agrichemicals

Greater Wellington Regional Council is urging farmers and others in regional rural communities to sign up to a collection and disposal scheme for a wide range of agrichemical products that could be hazardous to health and the environment.

“With the May deadline fast coming up to register for the next Agrecovery waste agrichemical collection it’s time to take stock of what’s in the shed or laying around the property,” says regional council senior environmental protection officer Naomi Middleton.

“The likelihood is that there will be leftover chemicals you’d be best rid of, for your peace of mind, you and your family’s good health and for the protection of the environment.”

The booking deadline for agrichemical recovery is 27 May, with on property pick up in July. For service is generally free, with the exception of a limited range of chemicals or for unidentified products. More information can be found at agrecovery.co.nz.

For many people out of sight is often out of mind. The easy thing to do is to store drums and other containers of half used or passed-their-expiry-date agrichemicals and leave them undisturbed until they are burned or dumped.

But this approach poses significant health risks to people, animals and the environment. Direct contact with dumped product presents immediate health risks to people and livestock. Chemicals left in contact with the ground, either resulting from leaking containers or pouring, seep through the soil and enter streams and creeks, and residue from burning contaminates land, air and water.

“We’re looking for behaviour change towards more enlightened disposal practices. Burning plastic containers and packaging may seem to be an easy and convenient solution but it creates more problems than it solves,” says Naomi. “Burning can cause unsafe emissions, including dioxin, which stay in the environment for ages and seriously affect your health.”

The Agrecovery rural recycling scheme focuses on the safe disposal of unwanted agrichemicals and recycling empty containers and drums. The voluntary scheme is funded by fees and levies on agrichemical product manufacturers and subsidies from a range of organisations. It is governed by a trust comprising Agcam, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, Horticulture New Zealand, Rural Contractors New Zealand and Waikato Regional Council. Day to day management of a range of collection and re-cycling schemes is managed by 3R Group Ltd.

The service is useful not only for regular disposal of agrichemicals but also for clean up when selling a property or where new owners are moving in. Whatever the circumstances, the problems of stockpiling or careless disposal still remain.

“Greater Wellington Regional Council has, over the last two years, provided a $35,000 subsidy to the scheme to encourage farmers and other to do the right thing,” says Naomi.

“While we actively discourage irresponsible burning and dumping and many in the rural sector get the message and behave accordingly, it still goes on. There’s a perception among some people that the land is limitless and they can do what they want in their own backyard. But it isn’t limitless, what we do can have negative impacts for other people in the community.”

The regional council says rural people should think ahead now and take advantage of Agrecovery’s programmes for themselves and their communities.