The lower chamber of Congress of the Dominican Republic began the process of public consultation for a bill designated as the «Law on Solid Waste Management», which aims to prevent waste generation and promoting its reduction, management and recycling; establishing a legal framework for its application activities, processes and operations starting from waste generation up to its reuse and final disposal.
The ultimate goal of the project is to have a minimum amount of solid waste reach its final disposal; i. e., that ‘zero waste’ is achieved in the arrangement or end use of any product; all as a result of the implementation of different actions –which shall vary by industry and business sector–, which promote zero waste production, its minimum production or the reuse or recovery thereof.
If the bill is approved all imports, transit through the country and exports of all type of waste shall be subject to its provisions which among them embody essential principles for its implementation, as follows:
The principle of Shared Responsibility, whereby all citizens are responsible for their solid waste and proper handling;
Waste Hierarchy, whereby its reduction is promoted, and if this is not possible, its reuse or recycling. Final disposal would only be carried out to the extent necessary and provided there is no other alternative;
The Principle of Extended Producer-Importer Responsibility, which requires from those who generate solid waste to assure their responsibility over the same up to its final disposal incorporating costs to the same to such effect. This principle entails for certain products the obligation to establish so-called «reverse logistics», which are based on the purchaser´s or consumer’s obligation to deliver the product –or solid waste– for its final disposal;
Mandatory implementation of integrated management system for municipalities: the compulsory comprehensive management system applies to all municipalities of the country and to all generators of solid waste in general.
Also if approved, comprehensive management of solid waste shall be conducted based on the following hierarchy of general guidelines or principles:
Prevention and reduction of solid waste generation;
Reuse and valuation for recovery of solid waste;
Solid waste treatment when required;
Sustainable final disposal.
The bill on Solid Waste Management includes some important provisions for certain waste, such as:
The prohibition on free distribution of all types of plastic bags in commercial establishments;
Plastic bags must be biodegradable, i.e., that they may be decomposed into chemical elements; a required which would take effect after 12 months following enactment of the Law;
The use of all kinds of expanded polystyrene packaging –commonly known as foam– shall also be prohibited, a requirement to take effect after 24 months from enactment, as well as the serving of food in disposable plastic containers for use on site;
The return of packaging that has value in its deposit shall be mandatory from 12 months of enactment of the Law;
Municipalities shall have to develop and implement programs to formalize recyclers –garbage pickers –, and selective waste collection or other programs, within a period of 12 months of enactment of the Law;
Also, in a period of 12 months from the adoption of the Law, municipalities shall have to promote the gradual implementation of programs for separation and selective collection of solid waste.
The bill however fails to consider some essential aspects that we deem vital for its success:
Tax exemptions should be taken under consideration for those who invest in upgrades in technology and facilities for recycling, processes which otherwise result too onerous for businesses to assume, by incorporating disposal costs;
We consider as essential for large generators or producers to submit their solid waste management plans for approval. This requirement is included in the bill only for generators of hazardous waste;
The types of offenses should be identified as they relate to waste, so as to assign appropriate sanctions.
Efforts from the main sector involved in the bill of solid waste management is the Private Sector:
Although the project assigns responsibilities for each person or institution involved in the management or generation of waste, the challenge of a major change for the private sector should be highlighted, given the incorporation of the so-called extended producer or importer responsibility principle, in line with more developed countries. Indeed, producers, manufacturers or importers of goods would assume product responsibility throughout its entire life cycle, including during post-industrial and post-consumption stages.
Initially, this project will cause concern in the business sector. The fact is however, that its implementation should be carried out gradually, allowing for the adaptation to the principles of the project in a permanent fashion and with the understanding of new scenarios to which the world is and shall be subject in terms of sustainability and, overall, specially carried out on a sector basis and regulations that consider the characteristics and circumstances of each economic activity, as other countries have done.