The Westcountry Rivers Trust has safely disposed of nearly a tonne and a half of banned and outdated pesticides from farms across the South West.

The charity introduced the pesticide amnesty 18 months ago to give farmers a safe and confidential way to get rid of obsolete and outdated pesticides. The team has now removed 1.4 tonnes of pesticides from farms in Cornwall and Devon. The substances are removed through working with a commercial waste disposal firm.

Run through the Upstream Thinking Project, which is funded by South West Water, the initiative aims to reduce levels of pollutants in the region’s rivers and boost environmental conditions in these key drinking water catchments. The amnesty was initially trialled last year in the River Fowey catchment in Cornwall and has since been extended to areas around the Tamar, Dart and Exe in Devon. Around 30 farmers have now contacted the Westcountry Rivers Trust for help with disposing of their old pesticides.

Hazel Kendall, Head of Land Management at the Westcountry Rivers Trust Land said: “If old products are left in the back of a shed, the containers can eventually corrode or deteriorate running the risk of leaching. That means they will eventually seep into the environment and could ultimately enter the water system. These concentrated chemicals can have a major impact on wildlife due to their toxicity, as well as increasing water treatment costs in our supply systems.

“We are really pleased to have already been able to help safely remove 1.4 tonnes of potentially damaging pesticides from local farms. We know that if one concentrated drop of pesticide finds its way into a river, it is detectable up to 30 kms downstream. The volume we have collected so far would be detectable 853,200,000 kms away – the equivalent of 2,220 trips to the moon and back.

“Autumn is a time when many farmers might have a seasonal clear out of sheds. If anyone finds old pesticides and is unsure what to do with them, we would encourage them to contact us to see if we can help in these target river catchments.”

David Smith, Programme Manager at South West Water said: “We are delighted that the pesticides amnesty, which South West Water has funded, has had such a great take up from farmers. 1.4 tonnes of old and obsolete pesticides, which could have entered our water systems, are now safely disposed of. Not only is this great news for wildlife and the environment it is excellent for our customers because it is improving the quality of our drinking water.”

The Westcountry Rivers Trust delivers a range of free and confidential land management advice to farmers to reduce costs, increase efficiency and reduce pollutants. Through projects like Upstream Thinking it is also working with farmers and landowners to improve land management in ways that will benefit the rivers as well as the farm operation.

Any farmers who want confidential help with disposing of old or obsolete pesticides can contact the Westcountry Rivers Trust on [email protected] or 01579 372140