By Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Herb Society
Yipee-Ki-Yay, Mother Earthers! I am here to hold your hand and talk to you about your deepest, darkest secret. You know that big plastic jug of death that you have hidden in the back of your garage or garden shed? Yeah. That one. Roundup.
I know that you would never dream of using it again. You bought it a long time ago. Maybe you didn’t buy it at all. Maybe it came with the house when you bought it. No judgment here. But it’s time to move on.
The active ingredient of Roundup products is glysophate. It enters the targeted plant through the leaves when the plant is sprayed. From there it moves through the plant, stopping the metabolism of a crucial enzyme. It kills the target plant, then breaks down into harmless components, without harm to neighboring plants, humans or pets. That’s the theory.
And, to be fair, as recently as April 30, 2019, the EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label recommendations and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.
However, that announcement comes after two high-profile court cases in which cancer patients claimed Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Tens of millions of dollars were awarded in damages. And there are, not surprisingly, thousands more cases presently being brought against Roundup’s manufacturer, Monsanto. Those cases started to be brought after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
We’re not going to discuss the impact of glysophate on industrial farming, and so-called “Roundup-ready products.” Not here, anyway. Few of us are dealing with acres and acres of newly monocultured farm land. Most of us just like to putter around our gardens. And, if you would like to do so without stressing about what glysophate is doing to you or anything else, I propose a two-point recovery plan. Dispose of the Roundup you have gathering dust on a top shelf, before your gardening friends find it and shame you. Instead, explore other means of weed management.
But how to get rid of the body, as it were? You really shouldn’t shove it to the bottom of the trash bin, and have it taken away to the landfill. You really, really shouldn’t pour Roundup down the drain. Even Roundup’s creator, Monsanto, warns that — although they suggest that the concerned gardener might dispose of an empty container in the trash stream (or even attempt to recycle it) — any remaining product is trickier. They warn: “Call your local solid waste agency for disposal instructions. Never place unused product down any indoor or outdoor drain.”
Some municipalities provide a hazardous household chemical disposal service. To find out where to take your unwanted herbicides and pesticides, you can contact your local hazardous waste disposal agency, call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687), or talk to your state’s environmental agencies.
So, what are you going to use instead when the wrong sorts of things start growing through the gravel path? The “Universal Homemade Weed Destroyer” is one gallon of white vinegar, one cup of Epsom salts and a squirt or two of Dawn dishwashing detergent. I’ve heard it has to be the original blue Dawn. My research has not extended to testing other detergents. But you might as well keep Dawn on hand, in case your dog gets skunked. Because, you know, the “Universal De-Skunking Potion” is a combination of bicarbonate of soda, hydrogen peroxide and…yes…Dawn. It also makes a lovely science experiment with the kids. Take it to the beach, add some red food coloring, and assemble the ingredients on the spot to pour into a sand volcano. It makes awesome lava.