Plastic waste is growing into a problem in Latin America

Apr 20, 1998 02:00 AM

As Latin America's packaged goods markets grow exponentially, North American exporters have given little thought to the impact their products will have on the waste stream -- especially plastics waste.
While many experts believe Latin American countries do not enforce their environmental laws, a new report "Recycling & Solid Waste in Latin America: Trends & Policies; A Guide for Business" warns that ignoring the solid waste issue could mean future bans and restrictions on plastic packaging and other products in some major Latin American countries.
The report finds that plastic waste is now 10-15 % of solid waste by weight (much more by volume) in many Latin American countries.
Rivers and lakes are badly polluted in most Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries, so open dumps must be closed -- but new legal landfills are difficult to site and incineration is not an option. This is pushing LAC officials to take measures to reduce waste.
Author Keith Ripley noted that several countries have already written producer responsibility authorisations into their waste laws; four countries are investigating special taxes, fees and other incentives to promote recycling.
In addition, several countries are involved in voluntary agreements for waste minimisations with industry; while several others are considering mandatory deposits for beverages, and Argentina has proposed a stiff deposit on non-rechargeable batteries.
LAC authorities also are looking into special programs for collection of batteries, fluorescent lamps, tires, household toxics, used medicine and pesticide packaging.
Ripley added that even though Latin American officials would like to look to the U.S. as a model, regional associations are receiving technical assistance from countries such as Germany and Canada. Germany has the world's most stringent "manufacturer's responsibility" law for packaging, and is pushing sale of its technologies around the world.
He said that Germany and Canada might pull ahead of the U.S. in technology sales -- and LAC officials may be influenced by European waste management ideas -- if more attention is not paid to the region's trash problems.
The 110-page report, covers 16 LAC countries, 9 in detail; has 46 tables and charts with statistics on solid waste and recycling; status of policies and complete policy analysis.
It covers packaging mandates, landfill bans, deposits, taxes, batteries, electronics, coding and ecolabelling, and Basel Convention issues; 100+ phone numbers. U.S. $ 297 Information: 301/345-4237 Fax 301/345-4768

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