COVID-19 Update: Latin America

Atilio Savino is the ISWA Board Member representing the ISWA Regional Chapter of Latin America, comprised by the ISWA National Members of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay, and is the Vice President of ARS Argentinian National Member

30 Apr 2020 -

The following item was the written response from Mr Savino to the following question:


"Can you tell us what the impacts have been on collection and waste systems in Latin America?"

Until last week end more than 145.000 people were officially infected with 6.300 deaths in LAC. Paraguay with 10 and Uruguay with 15 were the countries with less deaths. The characteristics of the quarantine are different in each country. Stricter ones like Argentina and softer ones like Uruguay and Mexico. The movement of people and the activities involved are impacting waste generation.

The Regional Waste Managment Outlook of LAC (UN Environment 2018) inform that waste collection services cover more than 93% of the population. Currently the service is uninterrupted despite the reduce of personnel.
Final disposal follows this trend. Of course we have to take in mind that a predominant characteristic is that almost 30% of the waste is disposed of in open dumps with the obvious health risks (RWMO).

The collection of recyclables were interrumpted in all the region, so they are normally collected with the residual waste. Municipal solid waste decreased due to the link with commercial activities Household waste quantities decreased, not significantly, because of the increase in food waste and packaging due to more people eating in house with increased food delivery.


In big urban centers the decrease in the volume of waste generated is significantly
The reason is that commuting is suspended. In Buenos Aires the decrease was of 34%. The reason is that instead of 3,000.000 people commuting daily to the city, less than 500.000 now travel in. The decrease in Bogota was of 25%. Both countries with strict quarantine. In Guadalajara (second city in Mexico by population) they had a softer quarantine and an increase of waste generation was 15%.


All the countries developed protocols or regulation related the protection of waste workers. All the activities of urban recyclers (formal or informal) were suspended.Collection of recyclables are majority in charge of them. This creates an enormous social problem related to the lack of income of each of them as the recyclables markets collapsed.

The role of the Regional Chapter since the starting of the pandemic was the translation of all the reports issued by ISWA and its distribution in the Region
National Members in their own country usually contribute with the local, provincial or national bodies in the developing of safety protocols, health care waste collection, treatment and final disposal, following ISWA reports.

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