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Forum promotes zero waste practices and bi-national cooperation to eliminate transboundary trash

Posted on March 11, 2015

Forum promotes zero waste practices and bi-national cooperation to eliminate transboundary trash

Tijuana hosts the Border 2020 U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program Waste Policy Forum

United States and Mexican environmental agencies discussed integrated solid waste management issues at the Waste Policy Forum held on February 10-11, in Tijuana under the auspices of the Border 2020 U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program.

Carlos Sanchez-Gasca, Director General of Urban and Tourism Development at Mexico’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), explained: “The purpose of the forum was to design and resume the implementation of joint strategies for the proper collection and disposal of urban solid waste. In Mexico, these wastes are under municipal jurisdiction, while organics, tires, electronics, which are special handling wastes are under state jurisdiction.”

The inadequate management of solid waste creates transboundary environmental impacts, including the pollution of our shared land, watersheds, rivers, and oceans, hence the importance of establishing binational cooperation throughout the three levels of government. 

Barnes Johnson, Director of EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery in Washington, D.C., said: “The forum is a great opportunity to enhance cooperation between our countries, since we share the same environmental issues because we live in the same environment, which knows no boundaries.”   

Johnson said the EPA is working on several waste management programs along the border. One of them is related to end-of-life vehicles, which cause serious environmental problems associated with the improper disposal of their components, including lead-acid batteries and scrap tires. 

Jeff Scott, Director of EPA Region 9’s Land Division in San Francisco, California, stated  that “the border is growing very quickly and we have to plan for growth to develop a healthy and economically viable community.”

Additionally, Scott said: “The Border 2020 Program does not attempt to impose solutions or favorable results, but rather, it encourages the communities to propose their own solutions based on their own approach to the environmental challenges they face.”

Furthermore, Sanchez-Gasca said: “What we want to achieve is the implementation of a country-wide solid waste policy and to have access to the expertise available in the U.S. to implement new technologies and policies at all levels, and to yield specific results in the area of solid waste, inasmuch as inadequate solid waste management causes soil, water, and air pollution. Emissions resulting from the breakdown of organic waste –that is, methane– generate greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the commitments that Mexico has made, along with the United Kingdom, is to achieve a formal reduction in its greenhouse gas production, and that can only be achieved with proper waste management.” 

The forum, co-chaired by EPA and SEMARNAT, was attended by BECC and others representing federal, state, and local governments, and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and industry representatives from both sides of the border.  

Joaquin Marruffo, Environmental Project Manager at the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), made a presentation on SEMARNAT’s solid waste program goals and the assistance provided by BECC through the North American Development Bank’s Community Assistance Program (CAP). The CAP has assisted with developing new sanitary landfills, expanding existing facilities, and the closing of several open-air dumps.

BECC is also developing a project with the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IADB’s)  Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), to create a strategic planning framework for the comprehensive management and disposal of electronic waste in Mexicali, B.C.  

During the two days, the forum presented an overview of sustainable materials management, commonly referred to as zero waste, and showcased activities related to the comprehensive management of spent lead-acid batteries, end-of-life vehicle processing, municipal regulations for plastic bags and scrap tires, sources and applications for organics as an alternative to landfilling, and activities to cleanup and revitalize existing agricultural canals. Participants were also invited to provide input on the waste priorities for Border 2020. Meeting notes will be posted on the Border 2020 website: http://www2.epa.gov/border2020 and http://www.semarnat.gob.mx/temas/agenda-internacional/frontera-norte/programa-frontera-2020




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