Obsolete, unwanted and banned pesticide stocks continue to pose serious environmental and human health problems in developing countries. In rural areas, pesticide waste tends to build up wherever farming and pest control activities are practised, either intensively or extensively. Urban dwellers, particularly in the tropics, are also affected by the pesticide waste and contaminated containers that often pervade their homes. Many people are unaware of the dangers and health risks of pesticides. Accidents, particularly those involving children, are common and often fatal. There is a lack of guidance for people involved in the management or disposal of small quantities of pesticide-related waste, so hazardous chemicals are often left lying around in both rural and urban areas, municipal dumps and even children’s playgrounds. The reuse of contaminated containers for domestic purposes, which is a common practice in many developing areas, is another major health risk.

In 1994, a panel of experts from FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a set of guidelines for the disposal of bulk quantities of obsolete pesticides. At the same time, the panel recommended that a second set of guidelines be developed for the disposal of small quantities of unusable pesticide stocks, pesticide-related waste and contaminated containers. Since then, the FAO project on prevention and disposal of obsolete stocks, financed by the Government of the Netherlands, has made this one of its main priorities.

These guidelines are the result of the Netherlands’ continued support and commitment, which have made possible the initiation and maintenance of a regional project related to the issues and problems of obsolete pesticide stocks.

The guidelines do not set out to provide all the information necessary for management and disposal operations, but strict adherence to the principles that they outline will definitely minimize the further accumulation of unwanted pesticides and the subsequent need for disposal. A revised version may be produced in the future, based on technical developments, newly available information and feedback from readers.

The guidelines will be translated into several languages and made widely available to governments, pesticide users, extension agents and small farmers.