By: Dra. Lindsay Ryan
In the past, the remains from production activities and from the home were seen as mere trash.
However, with the passage of time, this vision has been changing to the point where wastes can be considered materials from which it’s possible to obtain a return on your investment.
This is true only so long as they have been treated correctly, as part of a process of comprehensive management.
Costa Rica, a country where 0.871 kilograms of trash are generated per person per day, has launched public policy in response to the economic potential of solid waste.
The legislation implements an integrated system of planning and regulatory actions covering the operational, financial, administrative, and educational aspects of monitoring and evaluating the management of waste from when it is generated until its final disposal.
One example from the regulatory perspective is the Law on Integrated Management of Waste (No. 8839), enacted July 13, 2010.
To start with, it seeks to change the concept of “rubbish” or “garbage” to the concept of “waste,” in order to acknowledge that these materials can have an underlying value which shouldn’t be disregarded.
Next, this regulation draws from the idea that integrated management of waste is a responsibility shared by all the stakeholders, whether they are producers, manufacturers, consumers, managers, public authorities or the general public, and that each, depending on their role, has a specific responsibility.
Now, with waste reclamation, a new market opens that can be economically viable and attractive for the industrial sector, whether by means of recycling, co-processing, re-assembly, biogas yield, or the use of waste as an alternative fuel for some industrial applications or other technical processes for material recovery and energy output.
This new market is encouraged by the Costa Rican State through this law which promotes the integrated management of waste as a public and private priority.
In addition to the economic benefits that implementing this waste management law can lead to in terms of monetary gain, doing it can help companies avoid being responsible for damaging the environment.
This is a situation that in Costa Rica generates a high degree of social rebuke and which at a legal level can result in a grand scale of economic sanctions capable of even threatening the continuation of development activity.
Another benefit participating businesses could gain is seeing their image improve upon being labeled as eco-friendly and as having high standards of commitment when it comes to their Corporate Social Responsibility.
This adds urgency to the correct application and implementation of regulations for the handling and disposal of industrial solid waste.
Equally pressing is the use of environmental management tools which generate greater efficiency and effectiveness in sustainable production processes, such as ISO-14000, eco-production or the life-cycle approach.
In short, the integrated management of waste represents an economic opportunity that can be tapped by various sectors.
Making responsible waste management a requisite part of the production process is an issue that matters to all of us for preventing damage that could cause a negative impact to the environment.
It’s time to make a firm and determined commitment: start seeing waste as an economic resource instead of always identifying it as a problem.