Buenos Aires no longer knows what to do with so much garbage

Buenos Aires no longer knows what to do with so much garbage

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The capital of Argentina is overflowing with garbage. Now, the novelty is that the authorities propose an old solution: burn it.

On April 3, activists from the environmental organization Greenpeace displayed a banner with the legend "Burning garbage kills" from a balcony of the Buenos Aires legislature, where members of the Executive Power debated the project to modify the Zero Waste law and enable the incineration of waste .

But since the deposits where the garbage is buried have been over the limit of their capacity for years, the government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires formally asked the local Legislature (parliament) on March 23 to repeal the ban.

On the basis of the bill presented for this purpose - which avoids mentioning the word "incineration" - the capital government, with special powers, promises to implement a system to "recover the energy contained in the waste, under a controlled combustion process" .

“The City Government is promoting the incineration of garbage despite the damage to health and the environment that this generates; it has at its disposal an advanced law that it does not comply with, and instead of complying with it, it implements a toxic system, "said Diego Salas, director of Greenpeace. "Horacio Rodríguez Larreta has been the promoter of incineration for the last decade, and today he is making progress in this regard despite the law that prohibits it and the opposition of environmental and social organizations

“Beyond the impact on the environment and health of incineration, our fear is that they will stop betting on the garbage recovery circuit, which is just beginning in Buenos Aires. It is clear that incineration plants must be supplied, "activist Cecilia Allen, from the Citizen's Anti-Incineration Coalition, told IPS.

Garbage figures

Official data show that plans to reduce the amount of trash being buried, which had been yielding modest results, are now stalled.

In fact, as a whole, the metropolitan area of ​​Buenos Aires sent 1,101,202 tons of garbage to final disposal in 2017, compared to 1,094,708 that it had sent the previous year.

At the beginning of this year, the state company Ceamse, which is in charge of garbage disposal, published a study carried out with the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Buenos Aires, which maintains that, with the rate of population and economic growth The projected 18,000 daily tons of garbage generated by the City today will become 25,000 by 2030.


The situation could explode much sooner: the current sanitary landfills, Ceamse warned, will collapse in five years.

The question is not new: already at the beginning of this century it began to reveal itself as a serious problem for Buenos Aires, a city that has about 3 million inhabitants and is the one managed by the autonomous government.

But the population reaches 15 million if its metropolitan area, known as Greater Buenos Aires, is included, which represents 34 percent of the 44 million inhabitants of the country.

The project

The official project proposes to reform six articles of the Zero Waste law, to considerably extend the deadlines, by setting a new reduction goal of 50 percent for 2021, compared to what was buried in 2012.

The original standard is based on the volume buried in 2004, when Argentina was still suffering the aftermath of the brutal economic crisis of 2001, which considerably reduced consumption.

“Of course it would be desirable for us to become an advanced circular economy. But it is utopian to think that this can be achieved in the short term, "said Blanchetiere, a member of the ruling block in Buenos Aires, Vamos Juntos, an ally of President Macri.

He pointed out that "what we are proposing is not to enable burning, but thermovaluation, which will allow the generation of energy with garbage, as has been done for years in different cities in Europe."

"The reality is that today the European Union discourages the alternative of incineration, because the chimneys and filters do not prevent air pollution," said the director of Greenpeace Argentina, Diego Salas.

For the environmental organization, "the extended responsibility of the producer for their containers must be established, the recycling industry strengthened, organic waste treatment and differentiated waste collection, all points that were left off the agenda today."

Ecologists warn that different studies associate the toxic and carcinogenic emissions of these plants with an increase in morbidity and mortality rates in exposed populations, mainly workers and citizens of the surrounding areas. They also consider that the new incinerators do not solve the problem but only partially reduce pollution if there are the strictest controls. Among the harmful impacts to health, different types of cancer, congenital malformations, DNA damage, respiratory diseases, among others, prevail. This would aggravate the already worrying level of air pollution that generates three million deaths annually on the planet, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). (one)

Demand Larreta not to kill the Zero Waste Law to burn the waste of Buenos Aires, click here.


(1) Some of the studies analyzed: [MF1] Viel JF, Daniau C, Goria S, Fabre P, de Crouy-Chanel P, Sauleau EA, Empereur-Bissonnet P. Risk for non Hodgkin's lymphoma in the vicinity of French municipal solid waste incinerators. Environ Health. 2008 - Zambon P, Ricci P, Bovo E, Casula A, Gattolin M, Fiore AR, Chiosi F, Guzzinati S. Sarcoma risk and dioxin emissions from incinerators and industrial plants: a population-based case-control study (Italy). Environmental Health 2007 - Viel JF, Floret N, Deconinck E, Focant JF, De Pauw E, Cahn JY. Increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and serum organochlorine concentrations among neighbors of a municipal solid waste incinerator. Environ Int. 2011 Feb - Javier García-Pérez, Pablo Fernández-Navarro, Adela Castelló, María Felicitas López-Cima, Rebeca Ramis, Elena Boldo, Gonzalo López-Abente, Cancer mortality in towns in the vicinity of incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste, Environment International, Volume 51, January 2013 - Ranzi, A., et al: Mortality and morbidity among people living close to incinerators: a cohort study based on dispersion modeling for exposure assessment. 2011 - Cordier S, Lehébel A, Amar E, Anzivino-Viricel L, Hours M, Monfort C, Chevrier C, Chiron M, Robert-Gnansia E. Maternal residence near municipal waste incinerators and the risk of urinary tract birth defects. Occup Environ Med 2010 - Hsiu-Ling Chen, I-Ju Chen, Tai-Pao Chia, Occupational exposure and DNA strand breakage of workers in bottom ash recovery and fly ash treatment plants, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Volume 174, Issues 1–3 , 15 February 2010 - Kumagai S1, Koda S, Oda H .: Exposure evaluation of dioxins in municipal waste incinerator workers. Ind Health. 2003 Jul

By Daniel Gutman

Edition: Estrella Gutiérrez

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