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Supreme Court Decision Threatens Sustainable Waste Management across Brazil

07/18/2018 - 11h34

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CATIA SEABRA
SÃO PAULO

São Paulo, Rio and 14 Brazilian capitals are at risk of having to find a new destination for their waste due to a decision of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF).

The court prohibited the construction of landfills in areas of permanent protection (APPS) in a decision issued in February, and companies in the sector took a few months to assess the consequences of such decision.

The prohibition was an indirect result of another decision. At the time, the STF determined that businesses aimed at managing solid waste are no longer considered public utilities.

Gabriel Cabral/Folhapress
Sanitary landfill in Sapopemba
Sanitary landfill in Sapopemba

Landfills operated under such prerogative; approximately 80% of them are currently located, even if partially, in environmentally protected areas.

There are 369 sanitary landfills in the state of São Paulo, all of them located in APPs. A similar situation occurs in 16 capitals.

Experts still cannot gauge the extent of the decision. Entry of judgment, for which justice Luiz Fux is responsible, is still pending, and experts fear the decision will not apply only to future businesses, but to current ones as well. If this is the case, they would be forced to stop their operations.

The president for the National Union of Urban Cleaning Companies believes STF's decision is a result of a confusion between the concepts of solid waste management and landfill.

According to him, "there was a misunderstanding during the voting session, considering this is an extremely technical matter."

Translated by ANA BEATRIZ DEMARIA

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