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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 16:48

Solid Waste Management in Colombia

Written by  Magda Carolina Correal Sarmiento
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Editor’ Note:This paper has been targeted for a broad audience. The level of scientific detail provided is therefore not as high as would be normally be required in technical paper subject to peer review by environment industry professionals.


Colombia is located in the northwestern South America, bordered by the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru y Brazil with 1,1 million square kilometers of area and a population around 46 million people (DANE). It is the fourth largest economy in Latin America and makes part of the group called “CIVETS”[1], with a stable GDP growing rate around 4% (World Bank, 2012). It mainly produces coffee, flowers, fruits, emeralds, coal, minerals and oil and main economic activities are oil production, agriculture, industry and services. Temperature and precipitation depends on the altitude of each city.

Solid waste generation is around 32.000 tons a day (SSPD, 2010; Aluna Consultores, 2011), equivalent to 11.3 million tons annually, with a growing rate 4% to 8%, of which at least 50% are organics (Aluna Consultores, 2011).

Since 1991, the organization of the State was modified to adopt a regulator role and allow private participation in the utility sector, including solid waste management utility service. Nowadays, private companies provide the service for more than 60% of the population (SSPD, 2008). The law allows different schemes to provide the service, such as free competition, contracts with municipalities with or without exclusivity; the service can be provided directly by each municipality or by public, private or mixed capital companies (Law 142). Reward is collected directly by the supplier through tariffs charge in the bill of other utilities (electricity, water supply or gas), which are calculated according to methodologies established by the national government regulator (CRA).

Lately, the Supreme Court recognized the informal recyclers’ rights in the solid waste management and their accomplished labor and ordered to implement affirmative actions for their protection, therefore government is studying the mechanisms to put the order into operation.

During the last 10 years, solid waste management policies have been focused on eliminating illegal dumpsites, promoting the use of regional landfills and enforcing the formalization of small suppliers.

This document presents a brief description of solid waste management in Colombia, including the state of the art of the planning, regulation and operation conditions of the collection, transportation, recycling and final disposal activities. General figures about current generation, waste composition are also included. Finally, short ideas reveal problems and challenges in progress

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