50,000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides are stockpiled throughout Africa, many in rotting, rusting containers or bags that were stored or discarded up to 40 years ago. Tens of thousands of tonnes of soils have also been contaminated by toxic chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs) banned internationally by the Stockholm POPs Convention. As these chemicals spill and leach from their containers, they threaten rural and urban populations and contribute to land, air and water degradation, affecting some of the poorest communities across the continent.
• poor import controls
• inappropriate procurement and central purchasing policies
• untimely distribution
• inadequate stock management
• aggressive sales practices
• pressure to stockpile for unforeseen emergencies
• lack of coordination between donor agencies (particularly during locust outbreaks)
• receipt of products that are outdated or mislabelled (or labelled in the wrong language)
Many developing country governments are aware of the dangers but lack sufficient funding and technical capacity to address this ever-worsening problem through education, control and enforcement. Over the last 10-15 years, various projects have been made to clear up stockpiles (mostly by the FAO), and in 2005 a continent-scale initiative started in Africa (see Africa Stockpiles Programme pages).
PAN UK has insisted from the beginning that any large-scale removal has to be accompanied by activities and strategies that will prevent re-accumulation of stockpiles. Disposal is an imperfect solution, however. Costs are around $3500-$5000 per tonne, and the storage conditions are often so poor that their physical removal may pose considerable threats to workers. Products are ultimately destroyed in high temperature hazardous waste incinerators in Europe, which are the target of significant local opposition, but alternative ‘emerging technologies’ options are not yet commercialised at this scale.