Thursday, July 6, 2017

Seattle waste pesticide event safely disposes of hazardous chemicals

Hannah Street
WSDA Communications intern

Carts were prepared, tarp was laid down, and a safety meeting was in full swing by 8 a.m. Customers weren't scheduled to arrive for another two hours, but WSDA's waste pesticide collection event crew had been at the Seattle location since before 7:30 a.m.

A worker handles a container of DDT
before safely packing it in a disposal receptacle. 
A lot of preparation is involved before a waste pesticide collection takes place. Chemists and contracted laborers have the process down to an exact science.

Every chemical expected during the event is charted beforehand. Avoiding spills is always important, but the stakes are higher when the materials involve toxic chemicals like acids or long-banned pesticides like DDT.

Those who handle the chemicals suit up in bright yellow safety suits, taping sleeves around their wrists and pants around their ankles. Rubber boots, protective gloves and respirators add additional protection for the workers.

Others working at the event wear bright safety vests and must attend a pre-event safety meeting. Eventually, vehicles will be guided, one by one, to the unloading zone, which is taped off and covered with plastic tarp.


WSDA’s first waste pesticide collection event was held in 1988, collecting 48,000 pounds of unwanted pesticide products from 138 customers. Since then, WSDA has collected 3.3 million pounds of waste pesticide at collection events held around the state.

Waste Pesticide Program Coordinator Joe Hoffman
is interviewed by KOMO 4 News.
The Waste Pesticide Program provides a free public service collecting unusable pesticides from residents, farmers, businesses, and public agencies.

The program works to properly dispose unused or unusable pesticides, prevent the use of cancelled pesticides and provide education and technical assistance as needed. If unwanted pesticides aren’t collected properly, containers can age, potentially leaking hazardous chemicals into the environment.

Waste Pesticide Collection event

Waste pesticide event workers adjust their hazmat suits
and check materials prior to unloading pesticides.
At the June 20 collection event in Seattle, 32 customers were scheduled to bring up to 8,000 pounds of pesticides for disposal. Preparing for their arrival began early with WSDA staff and employees from Clean Harbors Environmental Services, the disposal contractor, placing the sheets of plastic on the ground and duct taping them to prevent slippage.

The first vehicles began to arrive about 9:30 a.m., carrying a wide variety of pesticide products.

Unloading and packing these pesticides is meticulous work. Each can, bottle or box of chemicals was cross-referenced with the previously prepared chart. Customers had to provide the names of pesticides being unloaded and, if they couldn't, the contents were recorded as “unknown.”

“It’s a very highly technical process,” WSDA Waste Pesticide Program Coordinator Joe Hoffman said.

Containers used to hold and
transport waste pesticides.
Waste pesticide workers then wrote down the chemical’s code number and re-packed it into one of many large drums. The drums were placed in a Clean Harbors truck for transport to Utah, where they will be safely incinerated.

WSDA's waste pesticide collection events are held around the state at various times of the year. Visit for more information about the Waste Pesticide Program and how to sign up for future collection events.