CCAP’s Waste Program officially launched work with the Municipality of Quito, Ecuador, in July 2017. The overarching goal of this work is to provide direct technical assistance to the city to identify and accelerate the implementation of one sustainable waste management project that can effectively reduce emissions, including Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs), and result in additional sustainable development benefits in the short term.
Currently, Quito sends more than 2,000 tons of waste per day to the city’s El Inga landfill, of which well over 50% is organic waste. When organic waste is buried in anaerobic conditions in landfills, it decomposes, creating a vector for diseases and releasing a significant amount of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than CO2 as a climate warming agent (especially over the first two decades after its release). CCAP’s work with Quito will focus on reducing the amount of organic waste sent to landfill and employ it in more productive uses.
This first stage of the work is focused on stakeholder engagement and conducting a high-level assessment of the city, including reviewing all available data and information on the technical aspects of local waste management, looking at collection rates, collection coverage, waste composition, recycling rates, existing waste facilities and informal collection. CCAP will then undertake an assessment of the current national policy framework for waste to develop a full analysis of the barriers and opportunities for project implementation at the city-level. This analysis will include looking at main national regulations on MSW management, policy priorities and existing strategies, support instruments available for municipal action, tariff structures, financing sources and other relevant information for improving system efficiency at the local level.
Based on this analysis of the local and national context, CCAP will identify and provide the municipality with a list of the most promising alternative waste treatment options for organic waste, including information on the related emissions reduction potential, the business case and the estimated implementation costs associated with each project.
Many more sustainable options exist. For example, rather than be transported to the landfill to decompose, organic waste can be treated to make compost and soil conditioning products, re-entering the productive economy and improving agricultural yields, while reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers. CCAP is already in conversations with local markets and other large organic waste producers interested in provisioning the organic waste, and with local organizations interested in purchasing the compost produced. Rather than purchasing industrial compost that has been processed abroad and sometimes transported thousands of miles, Ecuadorians could soon be able to purchase local compost derived from their own food, closing the loop to a circular economy.
Another interesting option is for Quito to develop its first anaerobic digestion plant that would collect separated organic waste to produce biogas. Biogas can then be treated and used directly as a fuel, replacing fossil fuels. Depending on different factors, the biogas could be used to run a generator, selling electricity back to the local grid. Or, it could be used in transportation as a vehicular fuel, potentially powering a pilot fleet of green garbage trucks, deployed to collect separated organic waste while raising awareness about its value within the community.
Quito’s Secretary of Environment is fully engaged, and the opportunities, both for Quito and other cities that could follow a similar model, are exciting. With the replication of projects such as this, organic waste could start to be seen as a valuable resource, changing the way municipal solid waste is handled and perceived in Latin America, creating new jobs and reducing emissions in the process.