Greetings! While there was some slowdown in regulatory activity towards the end of the year, as usual, there were also some fairly significant developments, although no significant surprises. Some key end-of-year developments include:

  • Chemicals developments. Brazil released public comments received on its draft chemicals initiative, paving the way for a consensus-bill that is expected to be introduced into Congress this year. Peru and Colombia moved forward to adopt the Minamata Convention's restrictions on products containing mercury; at the same time, Peru also adopted a framework for regulating so-called “specialty chemicals,” an undefined but potentially broad category of materials now subject to additional regulations.
  • Solid Waste and Zero Waste. Peru adopted an overhaul of its solid waste law, firmly instituting policies of extended producer responsibility for a number of wastes. The law also establishes a framework contaminated sites program and new long-term environmental liability provisions, which are increasingly common aspects of Latin American environmental regulations. Several countries, Argentina and Colombia, have adopted plastic bag bans, a vanguard issue in Latin America. A wide array of product take-back programs continue to move forward rapidly in Brazil (lamps, cell phones, medicines, batteries) and in Costa Rica (e-waste).
  • Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. The Chilean Senate has approved the bill to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change, paving the way forward for the bill to return to the House and move to the President for signature. Two new energy efficiency bills to boost renewables moved forward in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, Colombia adopted a new National Energy Efficiency Program, and Mexico continued finessing its programs for energy efficiency standards.

For your convenience, we are including links for final laws and resolutions. If you would like copies of proposed initiatives, please contact me or Tiffany Carlson. We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. ¡Gracias!

Maddie Kadas, Latin American Environmental Practice Leader

Plastic Bag Ban Goes Into Effect in Buenos Aires City

On January 1, 2017, a resolution (No. 341/APRA/16) prohibiting the distribution of “non-biodegradable, lightweight bags” used for the transportation of merchandise in supermarkets, hypermarkets, and food and beverage self-service locations went into effect in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. “Non-biodegradable, lightweight bags” are defined as polyethylene bags less than 50 microns thick, commonly referred to as “single-use” or “t-shirt” type.

House Committee Approves Bills Intended to Boost Renewable Energies

The Mines and Energy Committee in the Chamber of Deputies has approved two bills intended to boost the use of renewable energies. The first bill would modify Law No. 9.074/1995 (establishing rules for granting and extending concessions and permissions for public services) to require the industrial sector to acquire at least 20% of its energy from renewable sources starting in 2018. The second bill would modify Law 8.987/1995 (establishing the regime of concessions and permissions for the provision of public services) and Law 11.079/2004 (establishing general rules for bidding and contracting with public-private partnerships) to require the use of at least 20% renewable energy in the execution of services operated through concessions or public-private partnerships starting in 2026, with at least 10% renewable energy used between 2021 and 2026.

Expired Medicine Take-Back Bills Proposed

Two expired medicines take-back bills have been proposed. The first bill, proposed in the Chamber of Deputies, would modify the National Solid Waste Policy (Law No. 12.305/2010) to require manufacturers, importers, distributors, and sellers of medicines intended for human or animal use to develop and implement reverse logistics systems for expired medicines. The second bill, proposed in São Paulo’s Legislative Assembly, would require pharmacies and drugstores to maintain containers for the collection of expired medicines, cosmetics, pharmaceutical inputs, and related materials.

Mandatory Collection Points for Cellular Devices Proposed

A bill proposed in the Chamber of Deputies would require manufacturers of cellular devices to install collection points for used devices, batteries, and accessories in shopping malls, supermarkets, and other commercial centers. Manufacturers would also be responsible for the removal of collection bins and the proper disposal of all collected materials. The bill does not define "manufacturer," so it is unclear which entities in the distribution chain would be deemed to bear these obligations.

Draft Chemicals Bill Public Consultation Results Released

The Ministry of Environment has released the results from the public consultation period on its draft chemicals bill, which if approved, would be the first law of its kind in Latin America, establishing a registry of chemical production and imports, a risk assessment process, and a risk management program authorized to impose substance restrictions and bans. Out of 236 total contributions, 61% of comments came from the private sector, 25% from the general public, 6% from government, 5% from academia, and 3% from international participants. Comments are expected to be reviewed within the first six months of this year after which the National Chemical Safety Commission (CONASQ) will provide its response to comments. The proposal will then be reviewed by the Ministries of Environment, Health, Labor, and Industry and submitted to Congress.

Lamp Sectoral Agreement Strengthens with Additional Participants

Twenty additional participants have signed the Sectoral Agreement to implement reverse logistics systems for fluorescent, sodium and mercury vapor, and mixed light lamps. Since the Agreement’s approval, its list of manufacturer, importer, distributor, and seller signatories has almost doubled. The objective of the Agreement is to ensure the environmentally adequate disposal of these lamps in alignment with the National Solid Waste Policy (Law No. 12.305/2010).

Reverse Logistics Agreements Renewed for Portable Batteries, Automotive Batteries, and Lubricating Oil Plastic Containers in São Paulo

The State Secretariat for the Environment (SMA) and the Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo (Cetesb) renewed the terms under reverse logistics agreements with manufacturers, importers, distributors, and sellers of portable batteries, automotive batteries, and lubricating oil plastic containers. The new terms of agreement incorporate retail and wholesale traders and set reverse logistics system expansion targets for 2020.

System for Declaring Hazardous Storage Facilities Approved

The Ministry of Health has published a resolution (No. 1.521) approving the system for declaring facilities that store hazardous substances. Under the System—implemented through the Register of Emissions and Transfer of Pollutants (PRTR)—companies that require hazardous substance storage facilities must obtain a sanitary authorization from the Ministry and update their registration information within the System every six months.

Senate Approves Paris Agreement, Returns to House

The Senate has unanimously approved the bill ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change, in which Chile committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2007 levels by 2030 or 35-45% below 2007 levels by 2030 with international support. The proposal now returns to the Chamber of Deputies for review before being sent to the President for promulgation.

SEC Imposes $15 Billion Chilean Pesos ($22 Million US) Worth of Fines in 2016

In 2016, the Superintendency of Electricity and fuels (SEC) applied more than $15 billion Chilean Pesos (or $22 million US) worth of fines on companies that failed to comply with current regulations. Of the 1,597 sanctioning actions, 770 (48%) were imposed on the electric sector, while 718 (45%) fell on the fossil fuels sector. Notably, 12% of the fines were linked to cases in which the sale of products did not comply with the rules of certification and marking of the SEC Seal.

Plastic Bag Regulation Goes Into Effect

On December 30, 2016, the Ministry of Environment’s (Minambiente) Regulation for the Rational Use of Plastic Bags (Resolution No. 0668/2016) went into effect. The Resolution, initially issued in April 2016, requires distributors of plastics bags to develop, implement, and maintain a Rational Use of Plastic Bags Program, submit an annual report to Minambiente demonstrating progress towards goals established in the Resolution, and incorporate certain consumer awareness information on plastic bags.

Deadline Extended to Implement Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems

The Ministry of Labor has published a decree (No. 052/2017) that would modify the Single Regulatory Decree of the Labor Sector (No. 1072/2015) by extending the deadline to replace Occupational Health Programs with Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (SG-SST) from January 31, 2017 to June 1, 2017. SG-SSTs must be implemented by all public and private employers, personnel, and contractors and should consist of actions aimed at anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling risks associated with occupational health and safety. The new Decree includes a table outlining the five phases for the System’s gradual implementation. Until May 31, 2017, employers may comply with Joint Resolution No. 1016/1989, which regulates Occupational Health Programs.

Import and Sale of Mercury-Containing Products Regulated

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism has published a decree (No. 2133/2016) establishing control measures for the import and marketing of raw mercury and listed mercury-containing products. Listed products shipped prior to the Decree's entry into force will not be subject to its requirements. The Decree implements the country's commitments under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

Draft Action Plan to Develop National Energy Efficiency Program Proposed

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has published a Draft Action Plan that would establish 2017-2022 guidelines for developing the Program for the Rational and Efficient Use of Energy (PROURE). The Draft Action Plan would establish energy savings goals for the transport, industry, tertiary, and residential sectors, and would call for equipment standards to mandate energy power reductions in standby mode.

Maximum Permissible Discharge Limits in Marine Waters Proposed

The Ministry of Environment has published a draft resolution that would establish maximum permissible limits and parameters for specific discharges in marine waters, as well as the parameters for analysis and reporting discharges. The proposal would target discharges deriving from agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, hydrocarbons, mining, ports, food and beverage development, goods manufacturing, and industrial, commercial, and service activities. If adopted as proposed, the Resolution would go into effect January 1, 2018.

New Green Tax Package Intended to Help Chile Reach Emission Targets

A new green tax reform, incorporating a national carbon and plastic bag tax, is expected to generate $1.3 billion Chilean Pesos in the first two years of its implementation. The money raised will be used to help finance environmental projects that aim to reduce deforestation, promote sustainable agriculture, and meet the country’s emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. Under the plastic bag tax, users will pay $20 pesos per bag, with costs rising to $50 pesos per bag over the next four years. The carbon tax includes a rate of $15,000 pesos per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent and $135 pesos per gallon of gasoline. The new green tax reform will be complimented by incentives and other regulatory measures to be developed in 2017.

E-Waste Management Guide Published

The Ministry of Health has published the "Technical Guide for the Integral Management of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment," providing recommendations, criteria, and best practices to be observed during the stages of integral WEEE management. Although many of its provisions are nominally voluntary (i.e., recommendations), the decree that promulgates the Guide (No. DM-CB-8016-2016) states that it is mandatory for entities that are authorized to conduct e-waste take-back operations in Costa Rica.

Draft Energy Efficiency Standard for Air Conditioners Published

The Secretariat of Energy has published a draft standard that would establish energy efficiency limits and associated labeling and marking specifications for domestic and foreign air conditioners sold in Mexico, with or without heating capabilities, that have an air-cooling condenser, and a cooling capacity of up to 10,600 watts. The draft standard would replace existing standard, NOM-021-ENER/SCFI-2008, and go into effect 180 days after its publication in the Official Gazette.

Draft 2017 National Program for Standardization Proposed

The Secretariat of Economy has published a draft 2017 National Program for Standardization, a document identifying the official and non-binding standards currently under development by the Mexican government. The National Program is published annually in Mexico's Official Gazette and is used to inform the public of new and ongoing regulatory initiatives.

New Solid Waste Law Published Incorporating Producer Responsibility Principles

The unicameral Peruvian Congress enacted a major overhaul of its waste laws with a new Law on Solid Wastes based on the principle of producer responsibility. The Law repeals and replaces the current Solid Waste Law (No. 27314) and is immediately effective. Although the Law retains the existing solid waste management classification structure, it creates a revamped administrative framework for the management of solid and hazardous wastes in Peru with a clear focus on product take-back, recycling and valorization. The Law also creates a framework contaminated sites program and new long-term environmental liability provisions.

Cosmetic, Domestic Hygiene, and Specialty Chemical Products Regulated

A legislative decree (No. 1345) overseen by the Ministry of Health, restricts the manufacture and trade of cosmetic, domestic hygiene, and specialty chemical products. Importantly, the Decree also establishes new rules to implement Peru’s commitments under the Minamata Convention on mercury and the Stockholm Convention for Persistent Organic Pollutants.