San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cleaning Up Trash on Building Sites Mandatory

When building your dream home, it’s important not to get caught up in the excitement of it all and let important details fall through the cracks.

Disposing of trash from a construction site, for example, is crucial to avoid headaches and mess. In Costa Rica, several laws regulate trash management, and failure to comply with them can result in hefty fines and even a ban on construction.

The Law of Construction Regulation states that it is the property owner’s responsibility to make sure trash and wastes that accumulate during the building process are managed in a correct and timely fashion, said Edgar Abarca, San José Municipality Environmental Inspector.

That means hiring someone with the necessary equipment to collect trash and haul it to a landfill if you’re doing the building yourself, or making sure your construction company is on top of trash removal if you’ve hired a builder. Municipalities do not provide trash collection services for private building sites.

Though the law does not stipulate a specific time period during which trash must be removed, it gives municipal inspectors the authority to visit construction sites and hand out fines if they find that trash is not being adequately disposed of, Abarca said.

Inspectors determine penalties on a case by- case basis, he said. For example, an inspector could begin by giving builders a 24-hour to three-day warning period during which they must take care of trash before they are fined. Or, in the case of a particularly trashy situation, they could bring in a crew to remove the waste and fine the property owner 150% of the cost of this service. The harshest penalty: an order that construction cannot continue.

“Unfortunately, this is a big problem in Costa Rica,”Abarca said. “People don’t think about taking care of trash; they don’t plan for it.”

If your construction process involves using any kind of substance that could be hazardous to public health or the environment, you must comply with a law that regulates the use of dangerous wastes, according to Ana Villalobos, Public Health Ministry engineer.

The Dangerous Waste Management Law gives a long list of hazardous wastes, including those that are explosive, inflammable and toxic. Anyone planning to produce these types of wastes in the building process must first obtain a permit from the Public Health Ministry, Villalobos said. The permit outlines how the property owner must dispose of dangerous wastes and gives a time frame in which to do so.

If Health Ministry officials discover that a property owner has failed to obtain this permit or to comply with established guidelines, they turn the case over to the national police, who can penalize property owners with fines or even jail time, depending on the severity of the violation, Villalobos said.


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