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Portugal Environmental Export Market Plan
Chapter 4-Waste Management

General Overview

According to the Ministry of the Environment, between 1980 and 1994, Portugal experienced an average annual growth rate of 5 percent in the generation of urban solid waste. In the recent past, the growth rate has been closer to 3 percent per year. It is estimated that in 1996, the production of urban solid waste in continental Portugal was around 3,500 tons per year. By the year 2000, it is estimated that the per capita production of urban solid waste will be around 1.1 kg per day. As of 1996, about 14 percent of the population was serviced by regular waste collection but with significant variations from region to region. The government's goal is to improve this situation by the year 2000 by extending coverage to 26 percent of the population.
To deal with this growing problem, in 1994 the Portuguese Government authorized the participation of the private sector in the form of concessions for the collection and treatment of urban solid waste, particularly in systems to provide service to regional groupings of municipalities. Priority is given to the implementation of the 3-Rs concept (reduction, re-use, and recycle), to which the EU has given priority status.
The EU is moving toward minimizing packaging waste and recovering and recycling packaging materials. This strategy could result in the future in a trade barrier for foreign manufacturers of a wide range of products that are imported into Europe at the present time. If these imported products are not packaged to meet the new regulations that will eventually go into practice, they may no longer be allowed into the market. Rather than a restriction on trade, this could be viewed as a trade opportunity for American companies in the packing industry. If they develop new packaging materials and technology that address EU concerns, they may gain market access.
In August 1995, the Portuguese Government approved legislation to bring Portugal into compliance with EU directives. In 1996, a strategic plan for the treatment of municipal solid wastes was enacted with assistance from the European Union. Almost 34.5 percent of the funding assistance from the EU has been dedicated to this subsector.
Perhaps the most important project that has received EU assistance is the integrated solid waste treatment program of the municipal commonwealth of the metropolitan area of Lisbon, known as Valorização e Tratamento de Resíduos da Área Metropolitana de Lisboa (VALORSUL). This area produces about 19 percent of all the urban solid waste of the country. In addition to a system to separate recyclable wastes, the EU is funding the construction of an incinerator plant that will generate electricity by burning waste. The total project will require well over $200 million in investment before it is completed by 1999.
As in other environmental areas, the EU Cohesion Fund has been the prime source of funding for infrastructure projects designed to improve waste management in Portugal. Funding in the future will continue to flow into this important environmental area, but without a doubt, the projects that will receive grants will be those that are directly related to compliance with EU directives. For example, if the EU is generally opposed to the use of incinerators to dispose of solid waste, it is doubtful that funds will be provided for further use of this technology, except in exceptional cases. On the other hand, if the EU is in favor of recycling, projects presented for funding to cover recycling should receive more favorable treatment.

Solid Waste Disposal Technologies

Reduction, Collection, Recycling, and Re-use

Of the 305 municipalities in Portugal, only about 70 have selective collection of urban solid waste with some form of recycling taking place. Of the total amount of urban solid waste produced in Portugal in 1993 (table 8), it is estimated that only 20 percent of the cartons, 40 percent of the glass, and about 30 percent of packaging materials were recycled.
A new organization, the Sociedade Ponto Verde, was formed in 1997 by the government to implement recycling programs, and many so-called green points (ecopontos and ecocentros in Portuguese) have been set up all over Portugal to receive recyclable waste. There is an important effort under way to step up recycling of glass, paper, used batteries, etc. For the most part, local and European equipment, mostly near future, this program will be expanded by asking households to separate wastes for alternative pickup of biodegradable materials and those that can be recycled.
The primary disposal forms are uncontrolled open skies dumps, sanitary landfills, composting, and incineration. Although there are containers all over the country to provide the population an opportunity to recycle, the level of recycling taking place seems to be fairly low.

Table 8: Composition of Solid Urban Waste*
Biodegradable materials
Paper and cartons
*Although this information is now five years old, it is the only information available on this subject. New studies will be conducted in 1998.
Source: Ministerio do Ambiente

The Portuguese Government has been privatizing the collection and treatment of urban waste over the past few years; however, traditional municipal services are still being rendered in many parts of the country. Among the leading private firms that have been awarded concessions are the following:
SUMA, which is owned by the Spanish consortium DRAGADOS / FCC and the Portuguese group MOTA, with about 50 percent of the municipal solid waste market in Portugal. SUMA has contracts for waste collection and street cleaning in Aveiro, Cascais (including beach cleaning), Vale de Sousa (three municipalities), Batalha, and part of Sintra.
TECMED, owned by the Spanish Grupo Gil Navarro, has contracts for waste collection in two municipalities in the north of Portugal.
CESTA, owned by the French group Lyonnaise des Eaux and its Spanish partners, has the contract for maintenance of the grounds of the 1998 World Trade Exhibition in Lisbon.
Among the leading Portuguese contractors in urban solid waste collection, treatment and disposal are the following:
Soares da Costa SA—This is the largest Portuguese construction company, with sales of escudos $370 million in 1996. It was ranked as the 26th largest company in Portugal in 1997. This company has branched out into the environmental services area as a result of the trend to privatize the sector.
ENGIL (Sociedade de Construçao Civil SA)—This is the third largest construction company in Portugal, and it is ranked 36th in size among all Portuguese companies, with sales of escudos $300 million in 1996. This company has also diversified into the environmental services area.
GIR (Grupo Intersectorial da Reciclagem)—This organization is part of the Grupo Pensar Ambiente and has been working on the creation of a system for selective collection of packaging materials as part of a pilot project in Queijas.
RESIN (Residuos Industriais SA)—This organization operates treatment plants for urban solid waste, and hazardous industrial and hospital wastes, as well as sanitary landfill sites. It is also involved in recycling operations, and servicing green points.

Recycling Statistics
Consumption of lubricants by motor vehicles, industry, and other uses was estimated to be 93,718 tons in 1994. As of 1993, only 12,478 tons of used lubricants were recycled. Although the amount of lubricants that is being recycled has increased since 1993, there is still a lot of room for improvement. There is a market for technology to recycle lubricants.

Autos, buses, and trucks of all types produced 95,618 tons of used and discarded vehicle tires per year as of 1995. Used tires are being used for their caloric content as fuel for incinerators. There is a market for equipment to cut tires and prepare them for use as fuel.

Portugal consumed an estimated 803,820 vehicle batteries per year as of 1996. EU directives 91/157 and 93/86 classified this type of battery as hazardous waste. Used batteries are a prime target for recycling programs.

In 1995, approximately 216,307 tons of glass were consumed in Portugal in the form of containers for sodas, wine, edible oils, and other food items. About 40 percent of the glass was recycled, up from 32 percent in 1994 and 26.7 percent in 1990. Containers from recycling glass have been placed at strategic locations practically everywhere in the country. Recycling statistics for 1997 will show an improvement from 1995. German technology and equipment seem to have the largest share of the market.

According to the Portuguese Paper Industry Association (CELPA), 802,000 tons of paper and cartons were consumed in Portugal in 1995, of which 300,000 tons were the product of recycling. About 30.7 percent of the paper production in Portugal was the result of recycling. Most of the paper and cartons recycled were recovered from commercial and industrial sites. A very small percentage of these materials consumed by households was recycled. An effort is now underway to enforce selective waste pickup and separation of urban solid waste by households to increase recycling.
Source: Ministério do Ambiente

The largest Portuguese construction companies are potential excellent business partners for American companies interested in the environmental services business and/or in supplying equipment for important environmental projects. The largest construction companies in Portugal are:

Soares da Costa, SA (see comments above),
Teixeira Duarte, SA,
ENGIL, SA (see comments above),
MOTA & Ca., SA,
Bento Pedroso, SA,
Assiconstrói, SA,
Constructora do TAMEGA, SA.

The consortia that have been formed in Portugal to compete for concessions for privatized environmental services are composed for the most part of construction companies. EDIFER, ENGIL, Soares da Costa, Mota & Companhia, and Teixeira Duarte, for example, are already working in the environmental services area. These construction companies, together with Portuguese banks, hold the key to penetration of the environmental services sector by American companies. Spanish, French, and British companies have used this strategy successfully.
Portuguese design engineering companies are also good candidates for joint ventures in the environmental area; however, these companies tend to be smaller. To be competitive for large concessions in environmental services, size and financial strength are as important as know-how.

Sanitary Landfills

As of 1995, about 60 percent of urban solid waste in Portugal ended up in uncontrolled open dumps (vazadouro-lixeira a céu aberto)—1.924 million tons per year. About 13 percent ended up in controlled dumps (vazadouro controlado)—0.513 million tons per year. About 14 percent was sent to controlled sanitary landfill sites (aterro controlado)—0.47 million tons per year. About 9 percent was processed at composting plants (compostagem)—3.2 million tons per year (see figure below).
As of January 1998, in continental Portugal there were about 324 locations where urban solid waste ended up. Of these, 13 sites were classified as open dumps, without controls. Four were located in the north, one in the center, one in the Lisbon/Tagus Valley area, six in the Alentejo area, and one in the Algarve area. There were nine controlled landfills and 302 uncontrolled landfills (lixeiras) in
operation. The Institute of Wastes was created in 1997. However, the latest statistical information available was published by the Ministry of the Environment in October 1996. Burial of waste has been the most widely used system for treating waste in the past, simply because it is the least costly and has the fewest technical problems, particularly if no actions are taken to prevent soil or water table contamination.
As in other areas of waste disposal, the EU is working on the establishment of directives to govern the design and operation, closure, and postclosure management of all types of sanitary landfills. Among other things, the EU wants to require landfill operators to provide financial guarantees to cover the cost of closure and postclosure care of the facilities. The EU also wants to force government authorities to set prices for waste disposal that reflect actual costs, including the operation and long-term monitoring of postclosure management.
It is difficult to reach political consensus on all the issues associated with sanitary landfills. Portugal is one of the EU members that has been taking steps to apply stricter standards for new waste landfills in advance of any EU directives. Among other things, Portugal will be enforcing new regulations that will require households to separate wastes at home to divert different items to recycling, re-use, or disposal at a sanitary landfill or to an incineration plant.
New landfill sites using modern technology are in the process of being designed and will be funded by user fees. Modern sanitary landfills require liners and other technologies. American petroleum and petrochemical companies are among the world's principal suppliers of these types of specialty items. They are very competitive in price and quality and are already well represented in the market, although they face competition from European manufacturers.


The long-term goal of the EU is to eliminate incineration altogether, perhaps by the year 2010. Landfill sites or some other means of disposing of the potentially hazardous ashes produced by incineration are required. Sufficient levels of waste need to be treated by this method to make the operation economically viable and to justify the investment in air pollution control equipment. The cost of installing and maintaining energy recovery equipment is also high. Despite these factors, incineration technology is a viable alternative. In 1996 the EU approved the funding of construction of two new incineration plants in Portugal. The technology was found to be the most adequate for the specific objective conditions at two sites near the two largest metropolitan areas in Portugal.
Open burning of garbage is the least desirable method of traditional disposal; however, it takes place throughout Portugal in uncontrolled dumps in rural and economically depressed areas. As collection of wastes is expanded, these practices will be eliminated in the future.
Market conditions for American incinerator technology are limited in Portugal and other EU member countries. There are multiple EU suppliers with advanced technology. They enjoy preferential treatment as European suppliers. Several American companies with incineration technology have also established manufacturing operations in Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. Some components and design work, however, are still provided by U.S. parent companies. Depending on the dollar exchange rate (which is high at the time this report
is being prepared), American technology may or may not be competitive at any given time.

Anaerobic Digestion and Composting of Municipal Solid Waste

Among the preferred technologies at this time for the treatment of municipal solid waste is anaerobic digestion and composting or organic fractionation of waste. Of the urban solid waste produced in Portugal in 1995, about 299,190 tons (about 9 percent of the total) was composted. This technology is normally implemented with a system to recover biogas to produce electricity. The critical challenges for installing this type of technology include ensuring that the composition of the solid urban waste is adequate for composting. This implies that plastics, metals, glass, etc., have been removed from biodegradable materials. Adequate land for burial of rejected material or compost that cannot be used in some other way has to be available. Equipment for the collection of rainwater, biogas, etc., and for prevention of soil or groundwater contamination must be introduced. Disposing of compost or the use of compost as fertilizer has received mixed results in other countries.
Five composting plants are operating in Portugal. Three sites are located near Lisbon, at Setubal, Trajouce, and Beirolas. Two other composting plants are located near Oporto, at Lipor and Riba de Ave. Although American companies produce this type of technology, there are many strong competitors in the European Community. There are plants operating with European technologies in Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain.

Industrial Solid Waste

Many companies in Portugal produce industrial solid waste that could be recycled, re-used, or treated for final disposal. There are no reliable statistics on how many of these companies produce solid waste or how they dispose of these waste products. Portuguese industry is a client for equipment for treating industrial waste on-site for recycling back into the production line. This type of equipment is intended for the re-use of industrial waste at the plant where it is generated. Although recycling treatment of industrial wastes is carried out throughout Portugal, the industry is very young. Industrial waste generated by unscrupulous entrepreneurs still finds its way to unprotected landfill sites and illegal dumps and bodies of water. As enforcement of environmental legislation increases, business opportunities for industrial waste recycling and treatment will increase.
Among the Portuguese companies involved in industrial waste recycling and treatment are:

Resíduos Industriais, SA-RESIN
Controle de Fluidos, SA,
Sociedade de Estudos, Equipamentos e Instalações, Lda.,
Cooperativa Produtora de Projectos Agrícolas, CRL,
Administração e Gestão Sistemas de Salubridade, SA, and
Consultores de Engenharia de Resíduos e Gestão Urbana, Lda.

Innovative Technologies for Solid Waste Disposal

Several American and third-country vendors have been marketing innovative technologies for the disposal of municipal solid waste, as well as industrial waste, in Spain and Portugal. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and Global Plasma Systems Corporation have jointly marketed their waste-to-energy technology, the patented Plasma Pyrolysis and Vitrification (PPV). This technology uses thermodestruction to dispose of a wide mix of waste, from municipal solid waste to hazardous waste from hospitals and industry, including low-level radioactive waste.
Obtaining financing for large projects, particularly those with innovative ideas, is a challenging exercise anywhere. Portugal is no exception. However, EU directives call for the eventual elimination of sanitary landfills. The emphasis is on reducing, recycling, and re-using waste. If incineration is not the preferred method for disposal of inorganic and organic waste, sludge, rubber tires, plastics, etc., and landfills are to be eliminated, obviously there is a need to introduce cost-efficient new disposal methods. Waste-to-energy technologies have a market under these circumstances. EU sources of financing should be receptive to new ideas and new technology using best available technologies.

Hazardous Waste Disposal Technologies

General Overview

There are hundreds of contaminated sites throughout Portugal as a result of long-term uncontrolled dumping. These sites need to be recovered to prevent further deterioration of the soil and water table. This challenge can only be addressed over the long term, first by ending the practices that created the problem in the first place and then by addressing the question of recovery. The main source of financing for these projects at this time is the EU Cohesion Fund. The EU approved funding in 1996 to begin this process.
There are no reliable data about the size of the Portuguese market for equipment used to clean contaminated sites. First, some of the equipment has a dual purpose. It is impossible to know whether a centrifuge or any other item is being imported for this or some other purpose. Second, this is a highly sensitive subject, and either the extent of the problem is not totally assessed or the information is kept confidential.
Imported technology, both technical know-how and equipment, is necessary for such a massive and complicated undertaking. American technology is considered to be on the leading edge, as a result of the massive cleanup efforts funded by the U.S. Government, and is the preferred technology. A recent example was the award of a soil remediation contract to an American company for the grounds of the 1998 Lisbon World's Exhibition. The best avenue for American companies to enter this market is to establish contact with Portuguese construction companies, which bid on major projects. Although the large contaminated sites make headlines, one of the main challenges faced by Portugal in the hazardous waste area has to do with the collection and treatment of small quantities of dangerous wastes at a large number of small sites throughout the country. Pequenas quantidades de residuos perigosos (PQRP) (small quantities of dangerous waste) constitute an important problem for environmental authorities. Federal officials have to sensitize local governments, industry, and trade organizations about the dangers presented by even small amounts of toxic wastes if it is not treated properly. American technology and know-how to address this issue would be well received in Portugal.

European Union Definition of Hazardous Waste

The EU has been engaged in a long-term effort to define what should be considered as hazardous waste. The critical component of this exercise has been to classify substances that are considered waste into two broad categories: hazardous waste and solid waste. The outcome was the drafting of the European Waste Catalog (EWC), which was published in the Official Journal of the EU in 1994.6 Directive (94/3/EEC) European Waste Catalog. The EWC will be periodically discussed and revised or expanded in the future. The European view on what constitutes hazardous waste may not necessarily parallel any similar list by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); however, there is no basic disagreement in the broad category of hazardous waste. Portugal follows EU guidelines.

Recovery of Sites Contaminated by Hazardous Industrial Waste

Approximately 3,000 companies produce, handle, use, and store toxic and/or hazardous substances that eventually have to be treated and disposed of without damaging the environment. These companies include a vast segment of the economy, from dry cleaners to vehicle service stations that recover used crankcase oil, to pulp and paper mills, textile factories etc. Many of these companies cause pollution of the air, water, and soil by discharging the by-products of their operations.
The prime contractors for cleaning contaminated sites in Portugal will be the national government, 18 district governments, and new multimunicipal organizations set up for dealing with environmental services. The huge amounts of money needed for remedial action require the design of a long-term plan, which can only be carried out with the financial assistance of the EU.
One of the problems associated with cleaning contaminated sites is that the caloric value of waste is lost over time, as biogases escape and biodegradable components degrade. The production or recovery of energy as part of the cleanup process is normally not cost-effective. The contaminated material itself provides very little, if any, energy to fuel the remedial operation.
For successful bidding on government contracts, particularly for this kind of remedial work, it is essential to have a physical presence in Portugal. Joint ventures with either Portuguese or other European firms would also enhance the competitive position of any American company interested in bidding on this work. Such arrangements apply to both engineering/design work and the sale of specialty equipment.

Hospital Wastes

One of the bright areas for American technology in the Portuguese market has been in the area of disposal of hazardous hospital waste. American technology has been doing well in the market, despite strong European competition. At least one American manufacturer, Sanitec, Inc., has employed a very useful mechanism to introduce its products in the Portuguese market, namely, technical articles in the local press.

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