Photo via Amazona News

The City Legislature passed today a controversial bill allowing the City government to incinerate urban waste generated in the capital. The method was forbidden by the so-called Basura Cero (zero garbage) law from 2007 – passed before President Mauricio Macri took office for his first term as Mayor – which sought the progressive reduction of solid urban waste. Said law established deadlines and concrete goals: promoted recycling, recovery of materials, and the reduction of waste generation.

This law, on its end, will see the creation of plants that will transform waste into energy through combustion. It also establishes a schedule for waste reduction and prohibits the incineration of waste that is fit to be recycled.

The Metropolitan area of Buenos Aires – i.e. the City and the Greater Buenos Aires area combined – produces 17 tons of waste a day. Buenos Aires City contributes with 6.7 of them. All of that isn’t recycled is buried, but the state body tasked with handling waste collection (called Ceamse) has assured that in five years the space used for burial will run out.

The Ambiente y Recursos Naturales environmental foundation (FARN), indicated in a report about the issue that “the incineration of solid urban waste is not a renewable, nor clean technology, since domestic waste is not a renewable resource, and its combustion generates greenhouse gases and substances that are dangerous to people’s health and the environment.”

Yesterday’s session was interrupted by a group of Greenpeace activists, who stormed into the chamber with signs and played the funeral march, according to Perfil. The incidents led lawmakers to call for a break, after which the debate was resumed and the bill passed.

Despite the reservations, the City government assured the method meets high quality standards, and pointed out there are more than 2,000 operational plants around the world, 500 of which are in Europe. Farn’s report challenges that argument, saying that “while European countries continue opening more and more sophisticated plants, which tend to lower their levels of emissions, the same thing does not happen in developing countries, where it has been proven that monitoring and control can’t be afforded, and because of that are not conducted.”

The City government has not disclosed the number of plants that will be built with this purpose, nor where. Each one of them would cost between US $450 and $800 million, but government sources told Infobae the Rodríguez Larreta administration will not resort to its coffers nor issue debt to pay for them, but that private actors will take care of the investment and recover it – and profit – with the energy they sell in the future.