Colombia Plans Major Projects

Colombia’s environmental sector has made strong progress, but recycling rarely occurs.

The lion’s share of the Colombian waste lands on authorized disposal sites and waste management facilities. The size of the amount can only be estimated. “According to information of the supervisory authority Superintendencia de Servicios Públicos Domiciliarios (SSPD), Colombia’s waste generation reached 26,528 tons per day in 2014”, reported the Germany Trade and Invest (gtai), the business-development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany. However, this number does not include the illegally disposed waste. Furthermore, the data of 186 of the 1.102 municipalities were missing. The highest waste generation accrued in the capital district of Bogotá D.C. (6,308 tons/day), followed by the departments Antioquia (3,147 tons/day), Valle del Cauca (2,667 tons/day) and Atlántico (2,044 tons/day).

Thanks to two developments, 96 percent of wastes picked up by different companies are disposed of this way. On the one hand, since 2005 open dumping grounds and other unsuitable disposal sites (burial and incineration, disposal in waters) are forbidden (resolution 1390). The waste disposal is only permitted in authorized disposal sites and integrated waste plants. On the other hand, regional disposal sites were created. A disposal site counts as regional if it can be used by at least two municipalities. “The government subsidizes the facilities”, gtai gave account. “The number of municipalities that store their waste on regional landfills increased from 573 per year in 2009 to 803 per year in 2014. This is seen as a success, as there exist less but instead bigger and technologically more developed landfills.”

However, even this disposal method has its disadvantages. Several disposal sites of big cities in Columbia will reach their capacity limits in the foreseeable future. According to estimates of the supervisory authority SSPD in 2015, 38 percent of authorized disposal sites have a lifespan up to three years and 26 percent have a lifespan between three and ten years. Experts are sure, that new projects in the waste sector will result from this. Hence, a solution for Bogotá’s major disposal site Doña Juana, which will have reached its maximum lifespan in six years, is necessary in the near future. “The master plan of the public services of Bogotá UAESP therefore is a new disposal site to the west of Bogotá that should be in operation in 2021”, gtai found out. It is planned that this facility processes 4,700 tons per day, about half of the prognosed amount of the city.  A third landfill is planned for 2026 in the north of Bogotá with a capacity of 2.800 tons per day, which will process about one fifth of Bogotá’s waste.

Low recycling quote

Waste separation is new to most Colombian households. Also, there is a no returnable-bottle-concept. Waste separation and recycling are therefore mainly done by informal waste selectors who utilize household waste before it is picked up by the refuse collection. This way, approximately seven percent of waste gets into recycling. According to experts, the 15 percent stated by the government are unrealistic. All in all around 60 percent of household waste is organic, 20 percent not recyclable, and 20 percent (among others: plastic, glass, and metals) are suitable for recycling processes. This means that for household waste there is further upward potential. Organic wastes could also be used better with modern technological possibilities.

High demand of waste water treatment

The probably biggest project regarding environmental technology is the purge of the Bogotá river over a length of 350 kilometers, which is strongly contaminated through heavy metals and bacteria.

The waste water of the capital Bogotá, which is basically dumped into the river completely uncleaned, contributes up to 85 percent to the pollution.

Therefore, the city‘s only liquid waste processing system PTAR Salitre to date is said to be expanded and a second facility (PTAR Canoas, capacity 14 cubic meter per second) is said to be constructed for 1,3 billion US-Dollar. It is intended that the Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá (EAAB) runs both facilities as secondary waste water treatment.

According to gtai, further contemporary projects regarding Columbia‘s water sector are, among other things, a local water supply systems in the city of Cúcuta (177 million US-Dollar) and a liquid waste processing system in the city of Pereira (119 million US-Dollar).

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