Calls for nationwide ‘pesticide amnesty' amid fears households are hoarding DDT and paraquat in garden sheds

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The UK needs a national pesticide amnesty to clear out hoards of ageing, banned chemicals from garden sheds, campaigners have warned.  

Residents of Bristol will be able to drop off unwanted garden and household pesticides this weekend as part of England’s first city-wide pesticide amnesty, organised by the charity The Natural History Consortium.  

Conservationists say similar amnesties should be rolled out nationwide, amid fears banned substances including neonicotinoids, paraquat and DDT could be gathering dust in garages, sheds and outbuildings across the country.  

A “pesticide drop off” on Guernsey in the Channel Islands earlier this summer collected hundreds of containers of poison, herbicides and fungicides, including DDT, which has been banned in the UK since 1986. 

“Over time, pesticides get banned, so you can end up with some pretty dangerous pesticides that are no longer allowed to be used,” said Matt Shardlow, CEO of the charity Buglife. 

“There’s all sorts of things that people could have hidden away in corners of shed and garages that shouldn’t be used now.” 

Buglife says a nationwide amnesty is needed, particularly because it would ensure the most toxic products are safely dealt with. 

“These are persistent and often very harmful chemicals that need to be professionally disposed of,” Mr Shardlow told i.   

Calls for nationwide ‘pesticide amnesty’ amid fears households are hoarding DDT and paraquat in garden sheds
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Pesticide Action Network, another NGO, said it has been lobbying the Government to run a mass amnesty. 

“There is a lot in people’s sheds and allotments, and a lot of it is not approved for use, it’s dangerous, it’s in old containers – so it’s a big issue,” said policy officer Nick Mole.  

“There may well be things like paraquat out there which is hugely, acutely, toxic – a very small amount will cause fatal consequences,” he warned. “The thing is, we don’t know what’s out there.” 

In Bristol, residents dropping off unwanted chemicals will receive a packet of wildflower seeds and information on pesticide-free alternatives.  

A log will be kept of everything collected, and used by the University of Bristol as part of a major citizen science project to assess the effect of pesticides on soil quality across the city. The Natural History Consortium aims to cut pesticide use in the city by 50 per cent.  

Vicki Hird, author of Rebugging the Planet, said a nationwide amnesty could be a “positive initiative” to encourage people to adopt ‘wildlife-friendly’ gardening practices.  

“There are probably some horrors still lurking in sheds and garages across the country,” she told i. “I think a national amnesty would be a great idea. And it could be a great opportunity to raise awareness of all the other things you can do to help invertebrates.” 

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Decisions on the use of pesticides are based on careful scientific assessment of the risks and pesticides are only allowed on to the market if they meet strict environmental requirements and pose no threat to human health.

“Disposal is an important part of the product’s lifecycle and we have consulted on increasing safe disposal in the forthcoming National Action Plan on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides”

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