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A lot of Peru’s solid waste— almost 50 per cent of it— is thrown into open dumpsites. It’s a lost opportunity, given that over half of that waste is organic and that the sector is responsible for well over a third of the country’s methane emissions. It’s a common problem throughout the region where there’s often limited household waste separation, few composting plants, and poor infrastructure to collect and transport waste.
Peru’s government wants to combat this problem by promoting better reuse, recycling, and composting of waste, while also pursuing methods to convert organic waste into functional products such as fertilizer or energy sources. It’s a challenging proposition, however, because the country’s current policy environment isn’t conducive to the changes: there’s a lack of in-country technical expertise, and there’s limited financing options given that waste projects can require high upfront investment and the market for products is still young.
Luckily, Peru was able to turn to its southern neighbour for advice. The project “Enhancing NDC ambition and scaling up implementation in Peru’s Municipal Solid Waste sector”, was carried out from 2020 to 2021 and helped Peru review their policy framework for organic waste management based on advice from Chile’s successful approval of a National Organic Waste Strategy.
Chile successfully approved a National Organic Waste Strategy in February of 2021 as part of their latest Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The strategy aims to dramatically increase municipal organic waste recovery, from the current 1 per cent to 66 per cent by 2040, with an intermediate goal of recovering 30 per cent by 2030. This work was done with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Chile plans to achieve these targets by composting and reducing food waste. The plan is to have composting carried out in 500,000 homes, to create 5,000 composting educational centres, 500 neighbourhoods collectively composting, and 50 per cent of public institutions separating their waste. The country also plans to implement a gradual fee for household waste collection and a gradual tax on industrial waste disposed at landfills to incentivize mitigation.
"Sharing the experiences and visions around our recently published National Organic Waste Strategy, through virtual dialogues with our counterparts in Peru, helped us exchange ideas and learn about how our neighbours have moved forward and are facing these issues,” said Pablo Fernandois, Coordinator of the Circular Community Without Garbage Program, Office of Circular Economy, Ministry of the Environment of Chile. “The challenges of organic waste management and its impact on climate change are very similar for both countries, and the region in general.”
The project started with a peer exchange between Chile and Peru. This consisted of five high level policy meetings between the two governments to discuss different aspects of waste management, the barriers each country faces, and Chile’s successes. The conversations focused on policy, regulation, high-level strategy, financing, and how the national government can catalyse action.
The project then evaluated the feasibility of improving organic waste management in four Peruvian cities, including a preliminary economic evaluation to determine the emissions that could be avoided by implementing an organic waste strategy. Workshops on climate change and waste; Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV); development, financing, and public awareness of organic waste treatment technologies were carried out in each city. Pre-feasibility studies were conducted for different organic waste treatment options. This included expanding existing small composting plants in each city so that they could manage larger amounts of waste.
The project used two waste sector tools developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency for the CCAC. The OrganEcs tool evaluated different technological solutions, including anaerobic digestion or composting, to determine the most feasible and cost-efficient option. They also used the Solid Waste Emissions Estimate Tool (SWEET) to analyse the potential emissions reductions associated with different waste management scenarios.
“SWEET provides really good information for the cities to identify the main sources of emissions relevant to waste management— not just landfills but also the trucks and emissions from transport and the equipment at waste management facilities,” said Gerardo Canales Gonzalez, the director of Latin American Programs at the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP), the implementing partner on the project. “It provides a very good overview of the whole waste management system emissions and all the operations related to waste management in a city.”
More detailed analyses of the projects were then carried out with each city receiving recommendations to improve their waste sector by reducing, recycling, and composting waste. The recommendations included options for full public financing and operation and also for private sector participation. Canales says that having this data and analysis should accelerate implementation, by arming cities with the information they need to approach the central government or the private sector for funding.
For each city, a 30 per cent target was set for organic waste recycling through composting and fertilizer production. Activities that would significantly reduce sector emissions, extend the lifespan of existing disposal sites, and create a useful product.
“The CCAC’s technical assistance to local governments on technologies for recovering organic solid waste, and training on better ways to measure current emissions and reductions scenarios, has generated significant interest from municipal officials about the positive impacts of these actions in the fight against climate change,” said William Agustín Chata Yauri, General Directorate of Solid Waste Management at Peru’s Ministry of Environment.
The findings and technical assistance from the collaboration has also helped Peru prepare a major Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) Support Project called "Organic waste management in Peru: “Accelerating progress towards a circular and carbon-neutral waste sector” to replicate Chile’s success. The NAMA also builds on previous work funded by Norway.
NAMAs are actions taken by developing countries to reduce emissions and help achieve their Sustainable Development Goals. The 20 million Euro NAMA project will allow Peru to expand the CCAC’s technical assistance to leverage further climate action in the waste sector.
The project intends to accelerate organic waste treatment projects and landfill gas capture by improving regulation and developing a national organic waste strategy. This would also help accomplish Peru’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which prioritized methane mitigation from waste.
“Continuing to promote and accelerate national-level projects that turn municipal solid waste into a valuable resource helps make the transition to a circular economy visible,” said Chata. “In turn this can improve the waste sector’s climate ambition as embodied in our Nationally Determined Contribution.”
Chile and Peru’s successful partnership has the potential to be replicated throughout the global south.
“The situation for waste management, and in particular for organic waste management, in both countries is very similar— and that can be extended to all countries in the region,” said Canales. “It works both ways because Peru has some regulatory elements that are not yet in place in Chile. There is a lot of replication potential of this area of work in the rest of Latin America and other developing regions like Africa or Asia, where the CCAC also works.”
The chain reaction is clear in the roots of this work. Canada first partnered with Chile to reduce waste sector emissions and to help the country achieve its NDCs. That 2017 project, “Canada-Chile Program to reduce emissions from the waste sector to support Nationally Determined Contributions implementation”, grew from the countries’ relationship as CCAC co-chairs.
That program helped support policy development, monitoring systems, technology deployment, and the adoption of climate-friendly practices in the waste sector, and the initial development of Chile’s National Organic Waste Strategy.
This global collaboration around waste management will continue to grow as CCAC countries continue to work together to improve the waste sector. After all, given how massive the task at hand is, teamwork will be necessary,
“The continued exchange of knowledge and experiences among policy makers is essential to accelerate the transformational processes needed in South America if we are to reduce, with the speed that the climate crisis demands, the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants such as methane," said Fernandois.
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