Environmental policy and regulations for the integral handling of waste are driven by two main principles. First, waste generators owe a duty to bear the costs arising from waste handling. Second, manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, merchandisers, consumers and service companies have a shared responsibility for such handling. These principles are reflected in the Waste Law(1) and its regulations, and in certain official standards.
The law and regulations set forth rules on:
- the classification of waste (eg, hazardous waste, urban solid waste and waste requiring special treatment);
- the amount of waste generated and the category of the generator; and
- the obligations and liabilities relating to the generation, transportation, treatment and final disposal of waste.
'Waste' is defined as a material or product of which the owner or possessor disposes and which:
- is found as a solid, semi-solid, liquid or gas;
- is contained in recipient substances or deposits; and
- has potential for value recovery (ie, reclamation or recycling) or requires treatment or final disposal.
Likewise, certain provisions of the law and regulations apply to the parties involved in the management of waste. One of the key issues is the creation of management programmes which are mandatory for certain generators and which are intended to reduce the generation of waste, as well as to promote the reuse, recycling and revaluation thereof.
Generators, manufacturers, importers, exporters and distributors of products which, at the end of their useful life, are classified as hazardous waste have specific responsibilities. They must formulate and implement management programmes for products such as:
- electric or nickel-cadmium-based batteries;
- fluorescent and mercury vapour lamps;
- accessories containing mercury, cadmium or lead;
- medicines; and
This obligation applies in respect of all end-of-life consumer products that in some way become hazardous waste. Management programmes should take into account not only the procedures for the recovery, storage, transportation, recycling, treatment or final disposal of end-of-life products, but also the strategies for communicating the programme to consumers and informing them of any special instructions.
A similar obligation applies to generators, manufacturers, importers, exporters and distributors of products that, at the end of their useful life , result in more than 10 tons of special management waste and urban solid waste a year (if such waste is included on certain official lists, which have yet to be issued). State governments are taking the lead in regulating the management programmes for these products.
However, the law was enacted before the preparation of the official standards required to complement its provisions - namely, an official standard on a broader classification for waste requiring special treatment and the creation and implementation of the relevant management programmes, as well as an official standard for hazardous waste. The executive began to develop and consult on the relevant official standards for both categories of waste in 2010, followed by the official standard for waste generated in mining processes in 2011.
On August 30 2011 NOM-157-SEMARNAT-2009 was published in the Official Gazette. It determines the requirements and procedures for designing and implementing management programmes for mining waste. This official standard is the only one on the subject to have been fully enacted; it applies only to waste generated through mining activities.
Draft official standard PROY-NOM-160-SEMARNAT-2011 determines the requirements and procedures to formulate management programmes for hazardous waste. The draft official standard PROY-NOM-161-SEMARNAT-2011 identifies and lists waste for special treatment according to the provisions of Articles 19 and 20 of the law, and sets out the rules for the creation and implementation of management programmes for such waste. Both drafts were filed for regulatory review and public consultation in mid-2011. However, the drafts remain subject to review and public consultation. Final approval is expected later in 2012.
Generators of waste and other parties involved in waste handling would be well advised to start work on their management programmes, so that once both drafts are approved, the individual management plans can be filed for registration with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources. Taking steps now will save valuable time - which is likely to be limited once the new rules come into effect.
For further information on this topic please contact Juan Francisco Torres Landa, Jorge Yanez, Brenda Rogel or Jeanett Trad Nacif at Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa SC by telephone (+52 55 5091 0157), fax (+52 55 5091 0123) or email ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]).
(1) General Law for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste.