San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Solid Waste Law Passes Unanimously

Nearly two years after receiving unanimous approval from the Legislative Assembly’ss Special Environment Commission, the Integrated Waste Management Bill (GIR) was voted unanimously into law on Tuesday through a vote of 51 to zero.

The new law directs funds and resources to the Health and Education Ministries to help promote waste management and to launch public education campaigns. It mandates that municipalities create waste management plans and penalizes citizens and companies that litter.

Sanctions range from fines to up to 15 years in prison, although jail time is reserved for serious offenses, such as deliberately contaminating a river.

Under the new law, companies that produce hazardous waste must sign contracts with treatment facilities that safely dispose of products’s harmful leftovers.

A commission of representatives from the Institute for Municipal Development (IFAM), the Health Ministry and the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry will be in charge of enforcing the new law.

Costa Rica produces 11,000 metric tons of solid waste every day. Roughly 30 percent of that trash ends up in streets, rivers and vacant lots, the introduction to the new law estimates.

Since 1991, when the Costa Rican government declared a national emergency regarding the problem of trash disposal, 15 different bills have been presented to the legislative assembly in an attempt to solve the dilemma. None of them had passed until Tuesday.

Nydia Rodríguez, director of Terra Nostra, a local nonprofit that advocates for responsible trash disposal and conducts regular clean-ups of rivers and oceans, said the approval of the new waste management law is an important step to a cleaner future in Costa Rica.

“This law legally regulates the responsible management of waste throughout the whole country,” Rodríguez said in a press release. “It involves the participation and the responsibility of all the actors that make up the Costa Rican population … and makes crucial the role of local governments in their communities.”

–Mike McDonald

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