An estimated 3 million people live in Buenos Aires – a number that doubles during the day with the influx of commuters – generating more than 6,000 tonnes of waste per day. The city faces the twofold problem of a large solid waste load and limited capacity to absorb waste in landfills. There is little available free land for the construction of Solid Urban Waste (SUW) treatment plants, and the installation of landfills inside the territory of the City of Buenos Aires is also unfeasible.
Therefore, the Solid Urban Waste Reduction Project aims to reduce the amount of SUW sent to landfills, guaranteeing a prior treatment of 100% of waste. This will be accomplished through waste separation at origin, recovery, recycling and valorization, as well as measures ranging from infrastructure development – including the opening of new treatment plants – to awareness campaigns, aimed at holding both citizens and businesses accountable for their waste.
One of the central elements of the plan is SUW separation at the source, which explains the key role played by citizens. The city’s administration is currently implementing an intensive awareness campaign to educate citizens – children and adults – on how to sort, separate and deposit waste correctly. As of January 2014, there has been a 44% reduction in waste sent to landfills compared with the previous year. Progress has been made in containerization and lateral collection of SUW in order to avoid garbage bags on the streets, mitigate smell and improve the street’s aesthetics. Waste transfer stations have been installed, which has had a positive impact in C02 reduction generated by transportation. The City has also launched ‘Green Centers’ for recyclable materials, arid waste and pruning residue, and installed a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) plant.
There are two major environmental goals for this project: to treat 100% of waste prior to being sent to landfills, and to reduce overall waste sent to landfills by 83% by 2017, with the recycling rate expected to reach 68% by the end of the project. The project has also been designed to generate new employment opportunities and foster greater social participation and transparency in the waste and recycling chain. Thus far, 4,500 ‘urban recoverer’ jobs have been created, with 2,000 more expected, in a sustained effort to create long-term formal employment growth.
Any cities currently working on or seeking to implement a SUW management plan, which covers the generation, recycling, and deviation of landfill waste, could be interested in this project.