The Journal of Extension -

February 2010 // Volume 48 // Number 1 // Tools of the Trade // v48-1tt6

Operation Cleansweep in Florida: Extension's Role in an Environmental-Friendly Program Opportunity

Operation Cleansweep is a free pesticide disposal program that has operated in Florida since 1995. The program is open to commercial facilities, including agricultural production establishments, golf course operators, and pest control companies. Since its inception, the program has had more than 1,700 participants and collected more than 1,000,000 pounds of unused pesticides. University of Florida Extension's role with the program has been to serve as a member of the steering committee and promote and market Operation Cleansweep through normal Extension channels.

Fred Fishel
Associate Professor and Director, Pesticide Information Office

University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida


Federal law prohibits applicators of pesticides to improperly dispose of pesticides. During the mid-1970's, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1996) was amended and is the Federal law regulating pesticides and their use. Statements on pesticide labels remind handlers of pesticides that improper disposal is illegal, and because pesticide labels are considered legal documents under FIFRA, handlers are legally liable for obeying all label directions.

Years ago, Extension identified waste management and water quality as two of its National Initiatives (Vaughn, 1989; Richardson & Mustian, 1993). Specifically, efforts have been made by Extension to promote sound environmental stewardship practices with pesticide handling activities (Kirby, Chambers, & Cuperus, 1995). Those who store pesticides sometimes face the dilemma of proper disposal options for unwanted or unused pesticides. Extension educators routinely remind applicators to purchase only the amount needed for a task or time period. Leftover products occur for several reasons.

  • The product was damaged due to unfavorable storage conditions (Figure 1).

  • Excessive amounts of product were purchased.

  • A facility containing pesticides was purchased from a previous owner.

  • A pesticide lost its use registration due to federal and/or state law.

Figure 1.
Old, Unused Pesticides Damaged from Unfavorable Storage Conditions

Old, Unused Pesticides Damaged
from Unfavorable Storage Conditions

This article discusses Operation Cleansweep, a successful program opportunity that was developed and implemented based upon the need for proper pesticide disposal and its participation and promotion by University of Florida Extension.


The purpose of Operation Cleansweep is to offer a safe, convenient, and cost-effective (free) means for agricultural operations, golf courses, and pest control companies to properly dispose of canceled, suspended, and unusable pesticides. The Operation Cleansweep development effort in Florida was initiated during 1995, with a statewide collection of more than 70,000 pounds of lead arsenate, a widely used pesticide for citrus operations that was banned from use by the EPA (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2008). The following 3 years, the program was a pilot project to evaluate its logistics and acceptance by the pesticide applicator community.

Funding for the program during 1995 - 1998 was provided by private industry and the Florida Legislature. Since that time, funding has been primarily by the Florida legislature, with the exception of 2003 - 2004 with additional funds provided by the federal government (Table 1). All funding is appropriated to authorize the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to implement the program. Private industry hazardous waste collection firms bid for the contract to serve the program's needs.

Table 1.
Operation Cleansweep Funding

YearFunding ($)
1996 - 1998 Pilots73,500
2000 - 2001300,000
2001 - 2002300,000
2002 - 2003200,000
2003 - 20042325,000
2004 - 2005100,000
2005 - 2006100,000
2006 - 2007100,000
2007 - 2008100,000
1Of the $105,000 total funding during 1995 - 1998, the Florida Legislature provided $30,000 and private industry $75,000.

2Of the $325,000 total funding during 2003 - 2004, the Florida Legislature provided $100,000 and the Federal government $225,000.

Extension's role in Operation Cleansweep has been twofold:

  • To serve on the program steering committee in developing and reviewing guidelines. The steering committee is a cooperative effort among government, agricultural commodity associations, private industry, and Extension.

  • To promote the program through traditional Extension channels (Figure 2), including Internet, newsletters, and mass media.

Figure 2.
Operation Cleansweep Promotional Flyer

Operation Cleansweep Promotional

The steering committee set the priority for the program to target agricultural operations, golf courses, and pest control companies rather than homeowners, pesticide manufacturers and distributors, institutions, or state and local government. The steering committee believes this was the intent of the legislature when they funded the program. Previous experience has shown that government agencies and commercial wholesalers tend to have large quantities compared to commercial users, and funding would be depleted rapidly. Disposal programs are available for homeowners with unused pesticides and other household hazardous wastes (Earth911, n.d.).

A list of participants, quantities, and products is compiled in advance of scheduling a pickup or collection of pesticides. The list is compiled and managed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). FDACS staff verify the quantity and products by an on-site visit prior to an actual pickup. When a list in a region reaches a quantity specified in the waste collector's contract, such as 2,000 pounds, a collection is scheduled by the collector. Collection events take place December through March (Figure 3).

Figure 3.
Operation Cleansweep Collection Event

Operation Cleansweep Collection

Results and Discussion

The historical data speak for the success of Operation Cleansweep. Operation Cleansweep has collected and disposed of more than 1,000,000 pounds of cancelled, suspended and unusable pesticides from more than 1,700 participants (Table 2).

Table 2.
Operation Cleansweep Results Through June 2008

1996 - 1998 Pilots24425,000
2000 - 2001374235,644
2001 - 2002357224,000
2002 - 2003145126,235
2003 - 2004207250,984
2004 - 20056278,887
2005 - 200610491,359
2006 - 200713868,994
2007 - 200814482,895

Operation Cleansweep's popularity quickly grew during the pilot years, as it became known as an effective means of pesticide disposal. The program provides great benefit because it:

  • Promotes environmental protection.

  • Is an economical disposal alternative for commercial establishments when compared to having to contract for their own disposal.

The program has depleted its allotted funding each year, so a limitation is the number of actual participants. There would likely be more participants annually should funding be increased. This is evident from the number of participants during 2000 - 2004, when additional funding was available, compared to more recent years, when funding was reduced. Those who wish to participate but who sign up for the program following the year's depletion of allocated funding are placed on the collection list for the following year should funding be appropriated.


A positive perception from an Extension educator's viewpoint is that a real need was identified, and the program has had great success. Promoting, advertising, and cooperating with a historically successful program are traditional service-oriented activities provided by any Extension program.


Earth911 (n.d.). Making every day Earth day. Retrieved September 25, 2008 from:

Florida Department of Environmental Protection. (2008). Operation Cleansweep for pesticides. Retrieved September 25, 2008 from:

Kirby, S. D., Chambers, B. J., & Cuperus, G. W. (1995). Caring for planet Earth interactive exhibit and school enrichment program. Journal of Extension [On-line], 33(6) Article 6IAW1. Available at:

Richardson, J. G., & Mustian, D. (1993). Waste management education. Journal of Extension [On-line], 31(1) Article 1FEA3. Available at:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1996). Summary of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Retrieved September 25, 2008 from:

Vaughn, G. F. (1989). Water quality as an issue: what does this mean? Journal of Extension [On-line], 27(4) Aerticle 4FRM1. Available at: