Global Partnership on Waste Management

Costa Rica

Submitted by Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock
Summary of information
Highest priority waste streams
1. Industrial waste and municipal solid waste
2. Hazardous waste
Highest priority areas of capacity building
1. Technical and scientific
2. Financial
3. Social
Narrative summary
Costa Rica (Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock)’s responses to the needs assessment survey show that above all, the country’s technical and scientific capacity for waste management needs to be improved. Some waste streams such as industrial waste are addressed by law but require management plans. Others such as hazardous waste require the investment of greater human and financial resources. The responses also show that better societal participation and awareness in waste management issues would be highly desirable.

Industrial waste and municipal solid waste (MSW)
For Costa Rica, MSW management and industrial waste management are the prioritized waste streams that are in need of further capacity building. Regarding MSW, Costa Rica recently developed a new normative framework on solid waste management, which needs to be better promoted among institutions and in society. Effective enforcement of the new laws also will require improvements in funding, technical knowledge, institutional capacity, and societal participation. In terms of finance, the new law foresees that the country has adequate infrastructure to comply with the new regulations; however, funds need to be made available, and knowledge on the financial management of waste services need to be strengthened in municipalities and institutions. The new law broadens the responsibilities of the Ministry of Health, the leading authority in waste issues, and of the municipalities. These institutions need management and technical support to fulfill these new responsibilities. In particular, technical knowledge is needed to adequately assess new technologies in the field of recycling processes, treatment, and final disposal, and to then establish criteria to facilitate technology selection and decision-making. Regarding the social dimension of MSW management, informal waste workers need to be empowered in their role in the solid waste management system so that these mostly family-run and micro-businesses are included.

Although there is mention of industrial waste management (among other special waste streams) in the national waste policy of Costa Rica, there is currently no specific regulation on this topic, but work is underway. However, in order to implement future regulations on industrial waste, technical knowledge and information needs to be generated and made available to the responsible institutions to better assess different options of the treatment, reuse or recycling of industrial wastes. Once a management plan has been developed, options to involve the private sector to financially support industrial waste management should be considered. Waste workers would also need to be trained and equipped with technical knowledge so that they can participate in a future industrial waste management system.

Hazardous waste
Recently, Costa Rica updated its regulations on hazardous waste, which is ranked as a priority for the country.  Although the normative framework exists, control mechanisms that are being implemented by the Ministry of Health need to be developed further, and new ways of exerting control with scarce human and financial resources need to be explored. Despite significant progress, options for environmentally sound treatment and final disposal of some hazardous substances within the country still need to be identified. Furthermore, it is also important to make funds available to deal with those substances that cannot be treated or disposed of within the country.

Organic waste and waste agricultural biomass (WAB)
Organic waste and WAB are seen as having some potential to be used productively in Costa Rica. It is expected that both waste streams will be tackled as part of a new regulation on special waste streams, which is currently being developed. This would allow the prioritization and promotion of these waste streams. In order to productively use organic waste and waste agricultural biomass, it is important to enhance knowledge on new technological options to convert organic waste into products of value. In particular, technological capacity needs to be built in the responsible institutions – the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunication. Once technological options have been assessed, it is critical to transfer the knowledge to micro-enterprises that could participate in this economic activity. Public and private funds would be needed to develop a platform that could respond to the needs of establishing organic and agricultural biomass waste management as an economic activity.

Waste plastics
Plastic waste is not ranked as a high priority for Costa Rica. Although there are no regulations on plastic waste, there is a market for recycled plastics which has led to the establishment of an informal recycling system. Still, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunication are discussing the possibility of regulating waste plastics as a special waste stream. Although there is knowledge on plastic recycling and even the thermal use of plastics, broader knowledge about new technologies in this field is important. However, above all, the strengthening and eventual formalization of current informal recycling businesses is needed.

Costa Rica is the only country in Central America that has regulations on e-waste (effective since May 2010). Yet, although the regulation has been established, implementation is not yet comprehensive. For example, work needs to be done on technical guidelines on the management of e-waste. Support is needed to develop these guidelines and to distribute them among the stakeholders involved in e-waste management in Costa Rica. In particular, the new institution that was created to implement the new regulation – the Executive Committee for Integrated Electronic Waste Management (Comite Ejecutivo de Gestión Integral de Residuos Electrónicos – CEGIRE), which is made up of public and private sector participants – needs to be strengthened. The new regulations also stress the role of the consumers, making it necessary to strengthen awareness and involve consumers in the management system. Producers and import companies of electronic goods, responsible for dealing with end-of-life electronic goods, also need support in establishing sustainable financial schemes for the e-waste management system.