In most cases, the only option for dealing and with unused and obsolete pesticides stocks is to destroy them. But destroying pesticide waste is neither cheap nor technically simple. Destruction processes vary depending on the type of contaminant. But in general high temperature incineration is the is the most widely used method .
FAO understands that the incineration of hazardous waste is not without its problems. It can create toxic emissions, and although these emissions are relatively low compared to many other sources, they are nevertheless measurable. The incineration process also leaves ash that is hazardous and the filters that remove the toxic emissions become toxic.
While incineration is not the perfect solution, doing nothing is also not an option. The very real threat to health and environment that obsolete pesticides pose in developing countries, demands urgent solutions. The technology to deal with hazardous chemical waste safely does not currently exist in most developing countries. Providing temporary solutions such as repackaging and storage in the hope that a better solution will emerge in the foreseeable future is unacceptable since long terms security and integrity of the pesticides and their containers cannot be guaranteed. The search for environmentally benign destruction technologies has also so far been unsuccessful and therefore at present the only available technology for the destruction of most obsolete pesticides is dedicated high temperature incineration.
FAO will always ensure that in projects where it provides technical advice or appoints companies to destroy obsolete pesticides the destruction facilities used are licensed and monitories by competent authorities. The facilities must also have a proven successful track record of operating to recognized standards. Before agreeing to send hazardous waste for treatment at any facility FAO carries out a technical evaluation of the facility and its operators.
FAO is always on the lookout for alternatives to incineration and has offered tenders to vendors and operators of different destruction technologies, but so far no viable proposal has been received. UNIDO is working with the Global Environment Facility to promote the development of non-combustion destruction technologies for POPs chemicals which may also be applicable to obsolete pesticides in the future.
Currently, only Europe allows the import of pesticide waste for incineration. European incineration facilities are presently operating at under capacity, so prices are competitive. The market situation is liable to change however, and incineration prices may vary.
Some argue that building incinerating facilities in developing countries would reduce costs, help create industrial infrastructure and allow these countries to take charge of their own problems.
FAO is wary of this approach. Obsolete pesticide stockpiles are a critical problem that requires an immediate solution. Once solved, FAO's goal is to ensure that the problem does not recur. Disposal of obsolete pesticide stocks is essential, but it is just as important is prevention. If we succeed there, then building new facilities in developing countries is a wasted effort.
Developing countries may indeed need to develop their waste management infrastructure to deal with hazardous wastes. However, the obsolete pesticide stockpiles that FAO helps countries to dispose of represent a one-off problem. Countries must assess their long term waste management needs on the basis of a comprehensive analysis of ongoing waste streams from industry, hospitals, agriculture and other sectors and develop appropriate solutions. The mandate of FAO extends to the management of pesticides throughout their life-cycle. In order to deal with waste management countries should consult with other UN agencies such as UNIDO or UNEP.
The objective of the FAO programme is to remove obsolete pesticides but sometimes disposal isn't the only way of dealing with obsolete pesticides stocks. Chemical analysis may show that the product can be reformulated and used for other purposes. In some cases, the product may still be effective but no longer needed. There may be ways of matching the unwanted supply in one country to the demand in another.