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Clean Sweep Program Summary

Full Report (PDF) (4 pp, 4.8 MB, about PDF)

Over the past 20 years, states have been preventing pollution by collecting waste chemicals. Since many household hazardous waste programs prohibit farmers from participating, most states have developed programs specifically for farmers, often referred to as "Clean Sweep" programs. This report is an effort to compile state data into a single document. The information in the report is current through 2000.

Clean Sweep Program Operations

In nearly 75 percent of the states with Clean Sweep programs, the state department of agriculture or the pesticide regulatory agency has the lead for organizing and overseeing the program. Although Clean Sweep programs are sometimes limited to farmers and ranchers, states are increasingly opening programs to include other participants, such as pest control businesses, dealers, golf courses, homeowners, etc. Programs are largely funded by state funds and state pesticide registration fees, but additional funds are often obtained through participant fees, EPA grants, county funds and in-kind services. Most Clean Sweep programs (34) only collect pesticides, but some states have found that collecting several waste streams is more cost effective. Twenty-five states use single day events as their only collection method, but other states use combinations of single day events, permanent sites, and on-site pick up. Most programs (26) require preregistration and most collected material is disposed in high temperature hazardous waste incinerators. Generally, a hazardous waste contractor provides all materials and services for collection, including manifesting, packaging, transport and disposal. States have found many innovative ways to reduce disposal costs and improve program efficiency.

Clean Sweep Program Results

Forty-six states have conducted at least one Clean Sweep program, starting with North Carolina in 1980. This report classifies the information by state, although some programs are conducted by counties, and divides programs into five funding categories, which reflect the frequency or permanency of the program: permanently funded (21), continuous (12), intermittent (9), one-time (4), and never (4). Twenty-two states have conducted Clean Sweep programs for seven years or more.

State Clean Sweep Programs by Category

Based on data provided by states, EPA estimates that Clean Sweep programs have collected over 24 million pounds of unwanted pesticides from 1980 through 2000. Thirty-one states reported the number of participants in at least some of their collection events. The average amount collected per participant in nearly three-quarters of these states was between 101 pounds and 400 pounds. Most pesticides sold in the United States have shown up at Clean Sweep programs. Both canceled pesticides, some of which have not been sold in the United States for decades, and currently registered products are collected. State data indicates that few, if any, incidents of exposure are associated with Clean Sweep collections, due to the diligence and competence of state employees and contractors.

Challenges and Opportunities

The challenges faced by Clean Sweep program managers include obtaining funding, complying with the hazardous waste regulations, addressing liability issues, getting information to potential participants, overcoming distrust of government programs, and managing problematic waste streams. As states are trying to increase participation in their programs, they are also working to prevent the buildup of unwanted pesticide stocks in the future.


The 21 states with permanent funding have collected over 70 percent of all the waste pesticides collected nationwide. The principal advantage of permanent funding is that program managers tend to have predictable funds and can devote their energy to program implementation.

Based on data from fifteen states, the cost per pound to dispose of unwanted pesticides has decreased significantly over the past decade. However, the cost of Clean Sweep programs is minor compared to the cost of cleaning up the pollution that can result from improper disposal of unwanted pesticides.

No one knows how many pounds of unwanted pesticides have yet to be collected in the U.S. The difficulty in accurately estimating the total amount is due to several factors: 1) many farmers are reluctant to fill out government surveys; 2) some stocks lie forgotten in barns until the owner dies; and 3) unwanted pesticides still accumulate, due to overestimates of pest populations, changing crop patterns and new products; 4) uses of older products have been canceled due to new risk assessments conducted under the Food Quality Protection Act.

Assuming pesticide management practices are consistent across the country, it is reasonable to expect that the higher a state's pesticide usage, the higher will be its quantities of unwanted stocks. States which use the most pesticides have permanently funded or continuous Clean Sweep programs. States with longer-running programs generally have collected higher quantities of pesticides and a larger proportion of the amount of pesticides used since 1960. Data show that the quantities of unwanted pesticide collected and disposed by Clean Sweep programs is only a fraction of the pesticides used in the U.S. Since even states with long-term, comprehensive Clean Sweep programs are still collecting pesticides, EPA believes that Clean Sweep programs will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future.

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