Can Pest Management be Sustainable?

Hello Avid Readers! Have you ever been concerned that your pest management tactics aren’t very environmentally friendly?  Have you asked yourself can pest management be sustainable? Well lucky for you the answer is yes! There are more and more options available to reduce the nontarget effects of pest management on the environment. I’ve gathered a few options together and will describe their benefits.

Integrated Pest Management

A butterfly on a flower
Using IPM can help protect nontarget species like beneficial butterflies (UF/IFAS Photo).

First, I have to mention the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). It involves developing a long-term and sustainable plan for managing those pests, using a combination of strategies. Developing an IPM plan requires informed selection and application of pest control measures based on environmental, economic, and sociological consequences. This combined information is used to manage pests with the least possible hazard to people, property, or the environment.

The process of going through and developing an IPM solution will inherently make any pest management program more sustainable. Even when the IPM plan indicates the most economic and long term solution involves using chemical strategies, we can still make efforts to promote sustainability.

EPA programs

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has begun focusing more efforts on preventing pollution. They have begun a program the EPA Pollution Prevention (P2) Program. Under this program many sustainable options are being created.

Safer Choice

One new option is the Safer Choice labels. These labels are meant to help consumers choose products that are safer for humans and the environment. These will be useful to anyone managing microbial pests. Yes, disinfectants are registered as pesticides. The products that receive these labels are meant to have a reduced impact on the environment without sacrificing efficacy. The EPA will review every ingredient, the product performance, and the packaging. See more about the safer choice standards here.

Eco Labels

If you are a pest management professional who works with structures you may be interested in Eco Labels. These labels are meant to help consumers choose products that meet environmental performance standards. So, if you are buying materials to exclude rodents from a home, you may want to look out for these. The standards may involve how sustainable the material is from its manufacturing, disposal, or the ability to recycle it. You can learn more about those standards here.

Plastic Reduction Efforts

Plastic jugs of pesticides on a shelf.
So many of our pesticide products only come in plastic. This adds up over time and we should try to minimize our impact if we can. (Photo from PPP-142 “Is This Pesticide On My Shelf Still Good? Dr. Fred Whitford)

Anyone who’s been in the pest control game for a while knows there is a lot of plastic used. Pesticides used to be available in plastic bottles but in order to decrease weight in shipping and the potential for bottles to break, they are all in plastic jugs now. Is there anything that can be done to reduce our plastic waste? Using IPM to think ahead on your pesticide needs here can help. Alternating chemical control with other options can help reduce plastic waste as well as promoting good product stewardship. I mean, you might help prevent resistance from developing by not using the same chemical with high frequency. If you anticipate you will use a large amount of a product over the course of the season, it’s better to buy one large container, than multiple small containers. This will help reduce the overall amount of plastic used.

There is also hope coming down the line as chemical producers become more environmentally aware. New standards for packaging are being set in the chemical industry. Dry molded fiber is being used by some companies, such as Bayer, to package some of their products. This is currently only true for their pharmaceuticals but we can hope it comes down the line to the pest management world.




Eco label

Safer Choice

PIO Website


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Posted: February 16, 2024

Tags: Emily Kraus, EPA, Integrated Pest Management, Pest Management, Pesticide Resistance, Safety, Sustainability

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