Global Partnership on Waste Management


Submitted by Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development

(Note: The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development did not prioritize waste streams)

Summary of information
Highest priority waste streams
Highest priority areas of capacity building
Narrative summary
Colombia (The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development)’s responses to the needs assessment survey suggest that while the country is equipped with national policies and international collaborative measures, many areas in waste management need to be improved. In particular, there needs to be a paradigm shift from the waste management to resource management, in order for waste streams such as e-waste and organic waste to be recovered and recycled rather than disposed of. The realities of local communities and authorities also need to be addressed, as many do not have the technical capacity to treat generated wastes, relying on informal recyclers who need to be better integrated into formal strategies.

Municipal solid waste (MSW)
For Colombia, MSW is an important waste stream that needs capacity building in different areas. There has been an integrated solid waste policy since 1998, which needs to be further elaborated and specified in the field of waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and recovery. In particular, regulations need to be developed for separation at source, selective collection, transfer stations, and material recovery facilities (MRF). There is a need to develop policies and regulations that involve the private sector in the financing of the integrated waste management, taking into account the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle. It is also necessary to conduct feasibility studies on alternative practices and technologies that are commercially available and applicable in the country.

In the area of technical capacity, the main hindrance to effective recycling is a lack of technologies for recycling and recovery of waste, which has led to a weak market for recycled materials. Thus, there is a clear need to develop technical guidelines to include recycled raw materials and by-products in the market and ensure their quality and to strengthen technical capacity to valorize waste, for example through energy recovery from MSW and use of organic waste. Technical capacity building is particularly needed for small, rural and isolated municipalities. In addition, technical capacity building is also needed to broaden the technical knowledge on sanitary landfills to expand their life spans, diminish ecological risks and generate usable by-products.

With regard to plastic waste in particular, technical capacity to test plastics in laboratories is needed to avoid consumer fraud relating to biodegradable plastics.

On the financial side, there is a lack of instruments to fund public services in waste management. User charges do not exist and since the market for recycled materials is not yet well established, the demand for recycled materials is still pretty weak and can thus not sustain waste management activities. Unstable funding is particularly problematic for small, rural, and isolated municipalities.

Considering the social dimension of MSW management, there is a need to identify mechanisms to formalize the activities of informal waste recyclers and to create opportunities for internally displaced people.  Support is also needed to develop strategies that actively involve consumers in the recovery of materials.  Awareness-raising campaigns in communities also need to ensure that the public understands the waste management chain and the benefits of different measures in waste management.

From an institutional point of view, capacity building is also needed to strengthen institutions to unify technical criteria and regulations on waste management to create an integrated approach.

Hazardous waste
In 2005, Colombia passed a policy on the integrated management of hazardous waste. The normative framework has since been updated. However, there is still a need to update national regulations on transportation of hazardous waste and on competencies of authorities at regional level to ensure effective control and compliance. There is also a need to develop a regulation on the establishment of landfills for the safe disposal of hazardous wastes.

Although at national level, a number of instruments have been developed to manage hazardous waste, hazardous waste management at the regional and local levels remains rather deficient. Environment authorities at regional and local levels interpret and implement the national policy in different ways. Hence, there is a clear need to promote the national hazardous waste management policy with local waste management authorities. These local authorities, in turn, are in need of skilled human resources for the management of hazardous wastes.

Regional and local authorities also need technical and financial resources as well as institutional capacity building to enforce the national hazardous waste management policy and to control hazardous waste generators. The existing policy also needs to be promoted with waste generators as these often do not know about their responsibilities regarding hazardous waste management.

Healthcare waste
The existing regulations on healthcare waste needs to be updated and harmonized with the existing national hazardous waste policy. The environmental and public health authorities need to be strengthened, in particular with regards to coordination among authorities and clarifying responsibilities with regard to healthcare waste management. Best practices from other countries could help in establishing appropriate institutional coordination mechanisms. Related to the need for updating the policy on healthcare waste is the need to update the technical guidelines on healthcare waste management. Assistance is needed to fulfill this task.

A national e-waste legislation and policy is in the process of being finalized. To effectively implement the legislative framework, assistance is needed to clarify responsibilities of all the actors in the e-waste management chain. In that same vein, there is also a need to develop economic instruments to create a viable and self-sustaining recycling system.

Methodologies have been developed for some waste streams, such as computers, cell phones, light bulbs, batteries; however, capacity building is needed to study other waste streams and opportunities for recycling and valorization, such as refrigerators containing ozone-depleting substances (ODS). To minimize the disposal of e-waste in sanitary landfills, there is also a need to enhance the recycling infrastructure.

Although various campaigns have been carried out to raise awareness and educate consumers, more effective measures and strategies need to be taken to make sure consumers take their e-waste to the designated points of collection.

With the support of EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Science and Technology) Switzerland, the Ministry of Environment has been significantly strengthened with regards to e-waste management. Support is, however, needed to strengthen the capacity of local and regional authorities.

Construction and demolition waste
There is a normative framework relating to construction and demolition (C&D) waste, but it needs updating to better promote recycling and valorization of the waste. Technical knowledge needs to be promoted to enhance the recycling of C&D waste. Technical guidelines need to be developed to promote technologies for recycling as well for consumption of recycled by-products. Institutional capacity needs to be strengthened to design and control the management process for C&D waste.