Saturday 18 September 2021

72 tons of drugs seized in Costa Rica were destroyed with plasma in Miami

Mechanism allows the country to save up to ¢60 million in relation to what it would cost to incinerate these substances here

Paying the bills

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HQ – The 71.7 tons of illegal drugs (a record number) seized from drug traffickers in 2020 were flown on US planes to Miami, (USA), to be destroyed by an innovative process called plasma gasification, saving Costa Rica money.

Amid strict security measures, the drug was taken to the Daniel Oduber Airport, Liberia, where a US military plane flew it to Miami. Photo: Courtesy OIJ.

In Miami, the seized drugs are handled by using modern technology whereby the drugs are introduced into a chamber where temperatures reach values ​​of almost 14,000 degrees Celsius.

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At these levels, inorganic waste disintegrates and vitrifies into a solid object, while organic waste turns into gases, which can be used to produce electricity or liquid fuels.

Unlike other heat treatments such as incineration, this plasma process does not pollute, as it is not combustion and occurs in a closed redoubt.

Therefore, no pollutants are released into the atmosphere, or ashes, since only simple gases remain and a single solid and inert piece that can be used in furniture or to make roads.

The Costa Rica Technical Institute (TEC) has developed this technology since 2014 and in 2016 it made the first plasma shot, which is the fourth state of matter. However, as confirmed by Iván Vargas, director of the TEC plasma laboratory, in our country there is no company with the dimensions to destroy the tons of drugs that are seized here.

“We are developing a project with funding from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which seeks to implement commercial plasma technology from international suppliers for air purification, surface sterilization and destruction of hazardous hospital waste at the National Children’s Hospital,” he said.

Sending the seized drugs – 71,709,885 kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, ketamine, ecstasy, crack and other drugs – to the US saves money here at home. In the United States, US$286 is paid for each ton of drugs destroyed, while here the cost is about US$1,623 for each ton.

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Q Costa Rica
Reports by QCR staff

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