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Veolia, a European company exporting trouble

Veolia, a European company that exports troublesome

Although the European Union (EU) is moving towards an ambitious circular economy, increasing waste prevention, reuse and recycling goals, and has achieved evidence of success on the road towards zero waste in various cities, the European company Veolia is even more The willingness to export the expansion of waste treatment technology has frustrated the local Mexican community.

The first waste-to-energy plant in Latin America

Veolia, through its subsidiary Proactiva Medio Ambiente México S.A., has just signed a contract to design, build and operate the first waste-to-energy plant in Latin America. The construction of the plant is expected to start in 2017 and will last for 3 years. It is scheduled to start operations in 2020.

According to the existing planning documents, the capacity of the plant will be twice that of the largest plant in France where Veolia is located. It will process about 1.6 million tons of household waste each year, accounting for one-third of the city's total production, and will generate 965,000 MWh of electricity each year, which will be used directly by the underground subway in Mexico City. The operating period is 30 years, and Veolia's cumulative revenue is expected to be 886 million euros.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has just been submitted, and the consultation and technical review process has just begun. Dr. Raúl Montenegro, a waste disposal expert, pointed out that the data provided is quite weak: “The document shows some shortcomings: First, it contains a large number of second-hand bibliographic sources, many of which are not fully cited or not cited at all; Second, the first-hand information comes from the advisory group, and third, there is a final evaluation matrix, which does not reflect the total amount of information."

Waste will not disappear

The process of incineration of waste produces a large amount of toxic ash and slag. In the case of Mexico City, these toxic ashes will be sent to nearby sanitary landfills, namely RS Veolia Tlalnepantla 40 kilometers away and RS Veolia Tulantepec 123 kilometers away; and Veolia RIMSA operations in Leon Mina Processing center and final disposal center.

Although the number is very large, EIA does not analyze or evaluate the management and transfer of these ashes. According to calculations, entering 4,500 tons of domestic waste every day will produce 1,070 tons/day of ashes, that is, 350,000 tons/year need to be landfilled.

Cities that need lasting solutions

For a long time, Mexico City has needed to provide sustainable solutions for the local waste management system. Until 2012, municipal waste was dumped in the Bordo Poniente landfill, which has been in use since 1985. It covers an area of ​​600 hectares and receives 12,600 tons of garbage every day. In addition, 70 million tons of garbage was buried underground in the garbage dump, causing serious water and air pollution problems.

In 2012, the city decided to close the largest garbage dump in Mexico. At that time, there was no comprehensive policy for the collection, disposal and treatment of urban garbage. This failure had serious consequences for health and the environment, and plunged the city into a serious garbage crisis. In addition, the closure of Bordo Poniente has exacerbated conflicts between national, city, and state governments, which failed to agree on a sustainable, non-toxic, and resource-efficient system.

At this point, the local people are divided into two types. One is that they can only accept incineration plants under such pressure, and the other is that they advocate the gradual and systematic implementation of door-to-door collection, source separation, and management of biodegradable and problematic plants. The reduction of waste makes the city on the road of zero waste.

Good example in Europe

Veolia is known in Europe for being the culprit in many local anti-incineration struggles, especially in the UK. It is worth mentioning the Sheffield case. Due to the high cost of the system, the local council decided to sign a contract with Veolia 19 years in advance. The company was also challenged by local communities in Hertfordshire near London. Veolia’s planned incinerator was rejected by the government in 2015. Nevertheless, the company has reapplied for another nearby incinerator proposal, which is once again challenged by the local community.

These examples once again show that waste treatment facilities are not popular with citizens, who generally prefer to invest in long-term solutions that respect the environment, public health and public resources, just like zero waste experiences across Europe.

Latin America has benefited a lot from these examples: they show great opportunities for phasing out waste disposal and participating in the zero-waste road. The active entry of incineration as an option for urban waste management in Latin America threatens the potential for changes in consumption patterns, the increase in material recycling, and the recognition and inclusion of informal recyclers in urban formal systems. Ultimately, it undermines plans to make citizens a key participant in solving this challenge.

These examples once again show that waste treatment facilities are not popular with citizens, who generally prefer to invest in long-term solutions that respect the environment, public health and public resources, just like zero waste experiences across Europe.

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