More than 5.6 million tons of domestic waste are generated each year in the greater Buenos Aires area alone, approximately 50 percent of which is organic material. Throughout Argentina, solid waste management is the responsibility of municipalities, which often contract collection services and landfill management to private companies. However, much of the solid waste that is collected is dumped in unregulated landfills, which are often located near populated areas and accessible to scavengers and children. Runoff from these dumps contaminates the groundwater, which is an important drinking water source for many communities in Argentina. Collection Services. The Metropolitan Area Ecological Coordination Agency (CEAMSE) is the solid waste management agency for the Federal District, 19 municipalities of the greater Buenos Aires area, and three municipalities of Gran La Plata. These municipalities are legally required to deliver their solid wastes to CEAMSE, which, in turn, contracts most of the area’s municipal solid waste collection to private companies. Until recently, two consortia collected 88 percent of the waste in Buenos Aires, but in 1997 the city was divided into five collection areas, and the concessions were restructured. Contracts for collection services were award as follows:
Zone 1: CLIBA (consortium members include Roggio-Omas); 1,450 tons/day
Zone 2: A.E.B.A. (consortium members include Fomento de Construcción y Contratas, Dycasa, and Huayqui); 900 tons/day
Zone 3: SOLURBAN (consortium of IMPSA, Bomagra, and Compagnie Generale des Eaux); 1,000 tons/day
Zone 4: ECOHABITAT (consortium of EMEPA and Transporte 9 de Julio); 950 tons/day
Zone 5 (700 tons/day) remains in the hands of the government of the city of Buenos Aires. Communication with the Subsecretariat of Public Works and Services, General Office of Public Services. Under the new plan, monthly revenues for the concessionaires could reach $2 million. Disposal Services. CEAMSE receives only about 70 percent of the total garbage produced in the greater Buenos Aires area. The remainder is disposed of in illegal dumps. CEAMSE is trying to eliminate some of the open dumps, which will require transferring approximately 600,000 cubic meters of solid waste to sanitary landfills.
CEAMSE charges the municipalities a “tipping” fee of $10 per ton of municipal solid waste delivered to the landfills. In the Federal District, it charges an additional $17 per ton for processing and transporting wastes from the transfer station to the landfills. The tipping fee covers the operating costs of sanitary landfills, but not their land purchase and rehabilitation costs. Each municipality establishes its own solid waste management fees. Usually, a lump-sum fee for street cleaning, solid waste disposal, and other services is charged to every household.
The existing cost recovery mechanism creates favorable conditions for investments in sanitary disposal services for municipal solid waste. CEAMSE has already contracted the operation of four landfills to private consortia: Conyca-Thol, Benito Roggio-Omas, Cyusa-Brown & Caldwell, and Aseo. The increased economic activity in the municipal solid waste market, in combination with reduced illegal garbage dumping, bodes well for U.S. waste management firms.
There are other efforts under way to construct additional sanitary landfills. In the Province of Buenos Aires, the government is promoting a pilot project in which the municipalities of Zárate and Campana have joined together to build one landfill to serve both communities. Private companies have been asked to submit bids to construct the landfill and operate it for 20 years. The landfill will serve approximately 150,000 people and collect about 200 tons/day of wastes. Initial investment is expected to be $2-$3 million.
Other municipalities around the country are also recognizing that they must address develop more sanitary landfills. Puerto Madryn, for example, is seeking a loan from the Program for Municipal Financing The program is backed by funds from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. The initial investment is estimated at $1-$2 million. The loan has not been finalized because the project is still undergoing a prefeasibility study. Recycling. The solid waste stream in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area includes a significant recyclable component: 117,000 tons of paper, 94,000 tons of plastic, 40,300 tons of glass, and 21,000 tons of metal are generated annually. A large share of recyclable material in solid wastes is currently recycled through informal activities (i.e., scavenging) at different stages of the garbage collection and disposal process. There is no precise information on the extent of informal sector recycling.
There is no sizable market for recycled products since they tend to be more expensive than the virgin materials. However, there are a few companies in Argentina that are involved in recycling activities. The U.S. company Reynolds Metals has been operating in Argentina since 1994 and has collected more than 240 million aluminum cans by setting up collection stations in schools, clubs, libraries, and other public places. Some companies are recycling plastics, but this market is fairly small.
Industrial Hazardous Waste
The vast majority of industrial hazardous wastes in Argentina is generated in the Province of Buenos Aires. It produces an estimated 47,000 tons/year of hazardous wastes, created mostly by the petroleum, chemical, petrochemical, metallurgical, leather, and textile industries.
Although there are 56 registered hazardous waste handlers, there is great uncertainty about the disposal of these wastes. The most environmentally responsible industries store their wastes on-site as a temporary measure; however, these areas typically consist of paved or unpaved areas with thousands of uncontrolled drums which pose severe explosion and leakage hazards. In other cases, wastes are deposited into open air dumps and pits that leach into the aquifers. Groundwater analyses at various locations in the province have detected the presence of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and other hazardous substances. Wastes are also dumped into local rivers, such as the Matanza-Riachuelo and the Reconquista, where they accumulate in the sediment or flow into the La Plata River, degrading the water quality.
At the national level, hazardous waste management is governed by the Hazardous Waste Law (Law 24,051 of 1992) and several executive regulations issued by the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (SRNDS) (Decree 831/1993 and Resolution 242/1993). The Hazardous Waste Law establishes a cradle-to-grave tracking system for hazardous wastes, from generation to disposal. All the companies engaged in the generation, transport, treatment, or disposal of hazardous wastes must register with the National Registry of Generators and Operators of Hazardous Wastes, which is run by SRNDS. Hazardous waste generators must issue written hazardous waste manifests which must accompany the wastes as they are transported, treated, or otherwise handled. The law establishes severe sanctions for violations of the hazardous waste regulations. It also imposes a charge on hazardous waste generation and gives SRNDS enforcement authority.
However, as many provinces reject national hazardous waste regulations, this law is currently only in effect in the greater Buenos Aires area, some of its surrounding municipalities, and interprovincial waters. In addition, due to the scarcity of hazardous waste treatment facilities, strict enforcement of the law, even in areas where it is in effect, is unrealistic.
The Province of Buenos Aires has also promulgated Law 11,720, which sets forth technical and regulatory requirements for hazardous waste landfills. The law allows the establishment of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities within the municipalities where the generators of such waste are located. These facilities may be operated by either the municipality or a private company. CEAMSE obtained a permit in 1995 to open an industrial hazardous waste landfill for tires, asbestos, solid tannery and foundry waste, and stabilized metals.
Incineration is one of the few available options for hazardous waste disposal. Over the last four years, a number of industrial waste incinerators have been established in the Province of Buenos Aires by companies such as Ciba Geigy Argentina, Fluxa Sima, Braunco, Pelco, and Petacol. However, hazardous waste incineration is a very expensive option. The cost to industrial waste generators is on average $2 per kilogram, depending on the type of waste. Despite the fact that costs have decreased as more incinerators have come on-line, small and medium-sized firms, which comprise the bulk of Argentine industry, still cannot afford these costs.
To address this problem, the Argentine Government studied the feasibility of attracting private investors to establish a treatment and disposal facility in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. The estimated investment for this facility is $50 million. Potential investors included U.S.-based WMX International and the Argentine firm SIDECO. This project has not materialized, due in large part to the difficulty of finding a suitable site. Several similar efforts have encountered strong opposition from the local population and municipal authorities, impeding any progress on establishing the much needed facilities.
Although hazardous waste management is still an emerging market in Argentina, some positive examples of U.S. activity in this sector already exist. In a $1.4 million deal, the U.S. firm Nortru, Inc. is providing Recycomb, S.A. of Buenos Aires with a new technology that blends industrial waste solvents into an alternative fuel for cement kilns. The fuel will be used by Recycomb’s owner, Loma Negro C/A Industrial, a large private cement plant in Buenos Aires. The deal was backed by the Export-Import Bank of the United States. In partnership with local firms Nortru and Loma Negra, the bank helped to form the Recycomb consortium which recycles industrial hazardous waste, producing an alternative fuel for cement furnaces. The Chase Manhattan Bank is also financing an innovative hazardous waste incinerator project. Additionally, there are plans under the Riachuelo River Basin Cleanup Program for two hazardous waste recycling centers to be privately put up for concession and built in the next five years.
Hospital Waste Management
The proper management of hospital waste has yet to be seriously addressed in Argentina. Although the law requires incineration of infectious wastes, weak enforcement results in the illegal dumping of medical wastes together with municipal solid waste in open air dumps and landfills, exposing the population to infectious diseases.
In the Province of Buenos Aires, a recently enacted regulation requires public hospitals, private clinics, pharmacies, laboratories, and medical research centers to either incinerate their infectious wastes on-site or transport them to certified commercial incinerators. The regulation also divides medical wastes into three categories based on the hazard level, and contains specifications for their storage and incineration. A number of commercial incinerators that handle infectious wastes have situated themselves to the advantage of the opportunities to be derived from the regulation. Included in them are Ciba Geigy Argentina, Fluxa Sima, and Pelco. As the medical waste management market expands, the best prospects are likely to be small incinerators for hospitals and clinics as well as larger incinerator equipment.
Market Summary and Best Prospects
The market for solid and hazardous waste management is estimated at $125 million in 1998. While much of this demand will likely be met locally, there are some opportunities for U.S. companies. The best prospects include: Solid waste management planning. Under the Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin Clean-up Project, a solid waste management strategy will be prepared for the watershed. This will include plans to transform four illegal dumps into sanitary landfills. Equipment for solid waste management. The best prospects include different kinds of landfill equipment, such as lining material; leachate collection, monitoring, and treatment equipment; methane collection equipment; trucks; forklifts; and hoists. Hazardous waste management technologies. As the hazardous waste law comes fully into effect in the greater Buenos Aires area, companies will require waste minimization technologies to reduce the use of hazardous materials. Hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. Reduction, oxidation, precipitation, and solidification units for hazardous waste pre-disposal treatments and leachate collection and treatment equipment for landfills will be in demand. Treatment methods for biomedical and pathological wastes other than incineration. While the market for incineration technologies is largely saturated in Buenos Aires, there is a need for other types of technologies such as autoclaves and microwave technologies.