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Ecuador turns cocaine into concrete

by Sion Geschwindt

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ecuador’s government, and a private sector partner are currently building parts of a waste disposal plant in Ecuador using a cement mix containing cocaine.

Cocaine production has reached new records in the South American country in recent years. The quantities exceed the available space at 27 police warehouses where the drug is kept before being destroyed, and also exceed the capacity of the ovens normally used for incineration. This has pushed authorities to explore alternative methods.

The UNODC explains that cocaine, cement, sand, and water are mixed in a special ratio and used to build concrete platforms for storage facilities at the site, located on the outskirts of the capital Quito.

Hundreds of blocks of cocaine hydrochloride and coca paste seized from across Ecuador arrive each week at the waste treatment plant where they are broken down along with glass, expired medicines and even oil waste, according to Reuters.

The powder is then mixed with other materials to produce a cement slurry for use in construction. As the slurry sets, it reacts with the other material present to form a stable, hard and impenetrable matrix which prevents the cocaine from seeping into the ground or being recovered, says the UN office.

The partners say that turning cocaine into concrete is a faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly disposal method to get rid of large amounts of cocaine.

The regular method to destroy 10 tons of cocaine -incineration – can take up to two weeks, while the same amount can be encapsulated safely within a day, UNODC reported.

So far some 350 tonnes of crushed cocaine and coca paste seized between 2021 and 2022 have been used at the site.

There are currently no plans to use the encapsulated cocaine for other infrastructure projects.

Workers mix seized cocaine and coca paste with industrial waste to produce cement slurry to be used in a construction (credit: REUTERS/Karen Toro)

Read next: Recycled clay could cut cement emissions ’20-40%’

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