Guayaquil (Ecuador), 7 September 2022 – As drug production continues to rise, ever larger amounts of drugs and precursor chemicals are seized by law enforcement. However, after the headline heralding yet another successful seizure, the seized material needs to be temporarily stored and eventually disposed of safely, as large amounts of stored chemicals can pose a severe risk for the environment and to populations living near storage places. Safe and efficient disposal is therefore key, not least to prevent the reintegration of the material into illicit channels.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Laboratory and Scientific Service provides the necessary technical expertise to states looking to safely dispose of seized drugs. Currently, UNODC collaborates with Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru on its programme on Solutions, Training and Advice for Narcotic Disposal (STAND).
On 22 July 2022, the Government of Ecuador, with technical support from UNODC, disposed of 27 tons of cocaine precursor chemicals, calcium chloride and sodium bicarbonate by burying the chemicals in an engineered landfill near Guayaquil, a major port in Ecuador. In the landfill, the chemicals are used to stabilize the soil, neutralize acidic leachate and contribute to the recuperation of the soil. The method is safe, cost-effective, can be replicated easily, and even has environmental benefits.
Ecuador saved US$ 18,000 (or US$ 650 per ton) compared to its previous method of chemical disposal. Given that chemicals continue to be seized and more are waiting in temporary stores across the country (about 300 tons in Guayaquil alone), cost-efficiency is important. Following this first, successful disposal, UNODC and Ecuador will intensify their collaboration and identify additional sites across the country where this safe and effective method can be replicated.
“I extend our gratitude to UNODC for the valuable collaboration in the destruction of the aforementioned substances; and the design of strategies for disposal of seized drugs and chemicals," said Senior Police Coronel Edmundo Efrain Mera Hernandez, Subsecretary for the Control and Administration of Scheduled Substances from the Ministry of Interior. “This is contributing to the fight against drugs in the country for the well-being of Ecuadorian citizens.”
UNODC will continue to provide technical assistance to countries in Latin America and elsewhere to find cost-effective solutions in the disposal of seized drugs and chemicals.