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Building Partnerships to Reduce Emissions from the Municipal Solid Waste Sector

Sweden – and Stockholm in particular – are renowned for their sustainable waste management practices.  Bolstered by a landfill-tax and ban on organic waste, the city sends just four percent of its solid waste to landfills.  In comparison, OECD countries dump an average of 40 percent of waste in landfills, according to a 2012 World Bank Report.  Stockholm’s exemplary policies mandate the recycling of all waste, where possible, and utilization of remaining waste for energy production.  Only waste that can no longer be re-purposed is allowed to be landfilled.  Through this multi-faceted approach, Stockholm is able to significantly reduce its carbon footprint by diverting methane-producing organic waste and substituting fossil fuels with waste-derived energy.

Across the Atlantic, the government of Chile is establishing sustainable waste management practices through progressive policies, such as the Recycling Promotion Law, which aims to increase recycling rates from the current rate of 10% and promote Extended Producer Responsibility, a policy requiring waste producers to ensure a set share of their product is recycled.  Additionally, the Ministry of Environment, in cooperation with the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP), has developed a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) that is designed to divert organics from municipal and industrial solid waste.  The government will pilot its NAMA in several cities, possibly including Vina del Mar.

Like many developing cities, Vina del Mar disposes most of its waste in a dump, although it will soon expand operations to a sanitary landfill.  Yet, the city has been looking to develop a sustainable integrated solid waste management (SISWM) plan that would allow it to reduce waste going to its landfills, thereby mitigating its methane emissions, and create an economically viable waste system by capturing value from waste products, such as recycling, composting and biodigesting, among others.  The city recently joined and received support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) – a group of States and organizations cooperating to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) from a range of sectors by leveraging political will to take action.  In March 2013, Vina del Mar participated in an event sponsored by the CCAC that convened partner cities, national governments and waste experts to share their experiences in reducing SLCPs from municipal solid waste.  Impressed by the success of Stockholm’s advanced waste management practices, and facilitated by CCAP, Vina del Mar approached the Swedes to discuss a possible partnership that would explore the application of Stockholm’s cornerstone waste policies to the Chilean context.

To begin identifying and adapting appropriate policies, Swedish government officials conducted a one-week site visit to Chile to meet with local and national government representatives, the private sector, and other stakeholders.  With support from the CCAC, Chilean officials will subsequently conduct a mission to Stockholm to learn about the various waste policies, systems, infrastructure and technologies.   The city exchange is an important component of this new partnership as it allows waste officials in Chile to practically apply the lessons learned through Stockholm’s experience to a developing country context.

This ground-breaking partnership was formalized at the national level between Chile’s Ministry of Environment and Sweden’s Environmental Protection Agency, and at the local level between the cities of Stockholm and Vina del Mar.  Paraphrasing a comment by Vina del Mar Mayor Virginia Reginato, the city is working on several programs for recycling and reducing household and commercial waste, however the city needs a guide in order to make progress in a sustainable manner.  This partnership will be essential in transferring the knowledge, skills and technologies for sustainable waste management that have been developed in Stockholm to Vina de Mar.  The Chilean Ministry of Environment aims to scale-up the successes of Vina del Mar’s experience, and will create guidelines that facilitate the replication of similar initiatives across the country.  These efforts will complement the national NAMA and together shift Chile’s waste sector onto a low carbon trajectory over the long-term.  Finally, the work conducted through the NAMA as well as the city-level efforts supported by CCAC will enable Vina del Mar to serve as a model not only for Chilean cities, but to mentor other developing cities looking to embark on the same journey.

Vice Minister Irarrazaba noted that “We want Vina to be an example for the other municipalities on how to do a great and successful environmental management.”  Thanks to the significant effort undertaken by both governments, and facilitated by CCAP and the CCAC, Vina del Mar is on its way to becoming a model for cities in Chile and elsewhere.

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