THOUSANDS of tonnes of hazardous waste, including banned pesticides, could be present on Irish farms, leading to calls for a national farm waste collection service.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for a revamp of farm waste resources after 94 tonnes of hazardous waste including oils, pesticides and veterinary medicines were collected at bring centres late last year as part of efforts to remove dangerous chemicals and waste from farms.
The waste included 300kg of so-called Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), a group of toxic chemicals banned because they persist in the environment, accumulate in the food chain and can be transported long distances by air or water.
They included outlawed insecticides and poisons such as DDT, cyanide, dieldrin and endosulfan. The latter can cause reproductive and developmental damage in both animals and humans.
But there could be thousands of tonnes of waste remaining in storage across farms due to a lack of suitable recycling and disposal facilities, said Jane Brogan, agricultural specialist with the EPA.
The average amount of waste collected from farmers at bring centres in Galway, Carlow, Sligo, Meath, Cork and Tipperary late last year was 109kg.
"Farmers know it's not very nice stuff. They could have products 20 or 30 years old, which they can no longer use, but they didn't know where to take it," she said.
"Some civic amenities will take some of it, but not pesticides. I think farmers are looking for somewhere to dispose of it."
In addition to the hazardous waste, 22 tonnes of waste electrical equipment and batteries were also collected.
Farmers were charged €2/kg to dispose of most items, but there was no charge for electrical and electronic waste, or waste engine and hydraulic oil.
"The issue is not so much a willingness-to-pay problem, but one of access and convenience," said Ms Brogan.
She added that the Department of Agriculture is considering imposing a levy on pesticides, or introducing a Producer Responsibility Initiative (PRI) where the producers help fund safe disposal.
"The PRI is something we need to look at long-term. Farmers are willing to pay and take the stuff to centres. Ideally, the industry could contribute," Ms Brogan said.
The next collection programme will run for eight days in November in North Dublin, Cavan, East Donegal, Mayo, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Offaly.