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Market Plans

Venezuela Environmental Export Market Plan
Chapter 6
Hazardous Waste

Market Overview

According to the most current data available, Venezuela generates 600,000 tons of hazardous waste each year. Hazardous waste production is concentrated in certain areas. For example, the city of Maracaibo in Zulia State, where the oil industry is located, produces 30 percent of the nation's hazardous waste. Other cities, such as Valencia and Caracas, are also important generators of hazardous waste. The major producers of hazardous waste are the petroleum, automotive, petrochemical, chemical, pharmaceutical, paper, steel, aluminum, plastic, textile, tannery, and food industries.

Total 1998 investment for hazardous waste treatment in Venezuela is estimated to be $50 million. The market for hazardous waste disposal and recycling equipment is estimated at $39 million. It is expected to increase approximately 20 to 25 percent annually for the next three years. U.S. suppliers dominate this market. They are expected to export $30 million worth of equipment for hazardous waste to Venezuela in 1998.

Institutional and Regulatory Issues

The Ministry of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (MARNR) provides and enforces the legal framework for collection and disposal of hazardous waste. Current laws regarding waste are very general and state that all wastes generated by certain types of industry are hazardous. They do not clearly classify hazardous waste or provide guidelines for its storage, disposal, or recycling. The lack of a regulatory framework that more clearly classifies hazardous waste has hampered the sector's growth, but with new classification regulations and growing concern, the sector is expected to grow by between 20 and 25 percent annually over the next three years.

The principal problem facing Venezuelan companies that generate hazardous waste is that there are no hazardous waste facilities or central storage areas in the country. Hazardous waste is dealt with in one of three ways: by illegal dumping, by on-site storage, and by exportation. None of these three options is attractive. Illegal dumping results in the contamination of municipal landfills, and causes severe public and environmental health risks when dumped improperly elsewhere. On-site storage creates a burden for those companies without adequate space or storage facilities. (The petroleum industry is one domestic industry that does have its own hazardous waste storage areas, which commonly resemble landfills.) Once these areas are filled to capacity, the waste is exported. Exportation is a very costly endeavor. According to
the MARNR, France and the United States are the primary destinations of hazardous waste exports.

Early in 1997, a draft of a new decree (Regulations for the Control and Recovery of Hazardous Materials and Hazardous Waste Management) was submitted for review to a commission made up of representatives from the MARNR, the private sector, PDVSA, and several environmental organizations. This decree, once passed, will be a major impetus for a hazardous waste treatment market in Venezuela. It establishes classification categories and specifies methods for the proper disposal and treatment of hazardous waste. Article 35 of the decree states that hazardous waste can only be stored for five years. Article 35 also assigns risk levels to hazardous waste, based on United Nations standards for the transportation of hazardous waste, and classifies the materials in five groups with the fifth being the most dangerous (table 5).

Table 5: Classification of Hazardous Waste in Article 35 of Proposed Decree: Regulations for the Control and Recovery of Hazardous Materials and Hazardous Waste Management

Class Description
Solid wastes: insoluble, inflammable, not reactive, not corrosive. Although hazardous to environment, solid wastes do not immediately release particles that are damaging. They can be manually collected without presenting immediate risk to the collector.
Semisolids, liquids, water soluble, inflammable, not reactive and not corrosive. In concentrations these wastes can not cause massive or lasting environmental damage or be irritating if inhaled. Because they are liquids, they are difficult to recover when spilled.
Solids or liquids, combustible or inflammable only in the presence of flames. They can be irritating, corrosive, or toxic, but they do not require completely protective equipment for handling. They have limited dispersion potential. Transported quantities cannot exceed 3 tons or 25 cubic meters. Considered to be of moderate danger, these products have no lasting effects on the environment.
Solids or liquids, explosives or inflammable with out the presence of flames, corrosive, reactive or toxic materials. With potentially dangerous and lasting effects for humans or the environment, they require technical mechanisms to control their dissemination and effect.
Solids, liquids or gases that can produce explosive reactions, or easily combustible, very reactive, corrosive, give off toxic vapors or gases. These have lethal effects on humans and cause permanent damage to the environment and widespread destruction in an accident area.
Source: MARNR.

According to Article 35, class 4 and 5 wastes must be treated or disposed of within one year while class 1 hazardous waste can be disposed of in landfills, with the MARNR’s approval.

Overall, the current draft of the decree will give more options to companies for disposal of their dangerous wastes by defining more clearly what is hazardous and what can be recycled, incinerated, or disposed of in sanitary landfills. It allows the private sector to weigh treatment alternatives and begin to invest in improvements. In fact, the discussions about the new regulations are already increasing the business for Venezuelan environmental consultants as companies prepare action plans. U.S. companies should carefully track this decree for it should have a major and immediate impact on business opportunities.

While passage of the new decree will be a major, positive step, rules regarding transportation remain a potential stumbling block. The problem is that rules regarding transportation are not consistent on a national basis, and local authorities often pass their own regulations that are inconsistent with federal requirements or even with the requirements of contiguous municipalities. For example, a city may allow a company that produces a certain type of waste to operate within its jurisdiction, but at the same time may prohibit the transportation of this waste within the city limits, effectively eliminating the possibility of off-site treatment or storage. The lack of federal guidelines, combined with conflicting local regulations, is creating potentially dangerous situations, including improper storage and disposal.


Until now, the hazardous waste recycling industry in Venezuela has not been given much attention. However, there are some companies that treat hazardous waste such as old batteries, oils, and paints. When the new regulations governing the control and recovery of hazardous materials and hazardous waste management are adopted, which should be soon, hazardous waste recycling will greatly increase, thriving on the major hazardous waste generating industries.

Petroleos de Veneguela (PDVSA) is by far the single largest generator of hazardous waste in the country. The company is planning to dig 1,200 wells per year over the next ten years. Excavation of these wells will generate large amounts of sludge containing dangerous metals (800 m 3 per well). Current treatment involves the addition of lime to the contaminated sludge with the waste subsequently being buried. To move away from this type of potentially dangerous disposal, PDVSA will pursue treatment equipment that will allow this waste to be treated safely underground.

The recent opening of the petroleum industry allows for newly discovered oil to be exploited by parties other than the government. Many strategic associations are being formed between PDVSA’s subsidiaries and foreign petroleum companies for the purpose of exploration and extraction. In these strategic associations, foreign firms will be responsible for implementing a hazardous waste management program.

The Corporación Venezolana de Guyana (CVG) will open a bid during 1998 for the treatment of waste from its aluminum and steel industries. The company currently incinerates its hazardous waste, but due to outdated equipment, these incinerators generate extensive air pollution. SIDOR, a CVG subsidiary, is currently storing 1,000 tons of poly-chlorinated biphenyls; 200,000 tons of other materials considered hazardous; and 1,600 barrels of pesticide waste. The company is in consultation with the MARNR to determine an approved treatment solution.

Federal approval has been given for exploitation of gold in the forest area of Imataca in the northwest portion of Bolivar State. The region contains one of the world's largest gold deposits. The exploitation of the resource is being conducted without strict controls, which is resulting in mercury contamination of soil and water bodies. The government is aware of this problem and plans to implement stricter controls on mining companies.

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