Recently, CATF’s experts visited Naucalpan de Juárez (Naucalpan), Mexico to meet with local officials, learn about the progress they’re making on sustainable waste management, and understand how they plan to implement waste methane mitigation best practices at the municipality’s landfill.
Reducing methane emissions is critical to addressing climate change, and the waste sector (both solid waste and wastewater) is the third largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions in the world. It’s responsible for about 20% of annual methane emissions, with projections to grow its emissions 13 megatons per year over the next decade alone. In fact, the World Bank estimates that by 2050 we will be generating 3.88 billion metric tons of solid waste each year, a 73% increase from 2020
Fortunately, we have solutions available to tackle methane emissions from the waste sector today, with up to 60% of mitigation measures targeting solid waste having low or negative costs. These include food waste prevention, organic waste diversion, dump site rehabilitation, and improved landfill design and operation. Outside of the climate benefits, improved waste management can contribute to other air quality, public health, environmental, and socio-economic co-benefits for local communities.
Mexico and Waste Management
While it’s important we implement these practices around the world, Mexico is particularly poised to make progress on waste methane. Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) has been tasked with combating climate change as well as maintaining and conserving Mexico’s ecosystems, natural resources, and environmental services to promote sustainable development. In 2019, SEMARNAT reported that over 44 million tons of waste are generated annually within Mexico. That year, waste emissions (solid waste and wastewater) grew to over 54 thousand GgCO2e, accounting for almost 7.4% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Throughout the country, a system of collecting and landfilling municipal solid waste (MSW) is predominant. In urban areas, waste collection rates can be as high as 80%, while rural communities’ collection coverage is as low as 20%. The total amount of waste disposed in final disposal sites is estimated at around 79%. Still, according to the National Systems of Statical and Geographic Information (INEGI), there are approximately 238 sanitary landfills and more than 1,600 open-air dumpsites throughout the country.
According to Mexico’s General Law for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste (LGPIR), local municipalities are responsible for the management of MSW from collection to disposal. Through the law, municipalities are mandated to develop Urban Solid Waste Management programs, issue regulations and guidelines compliant with State and LGPIR regulations, and collect fees for waste management services, among other activities.
However, municipalities often encounter challenges to improving waste management practices, including:
- Lack of sufficient infrastructure and equipment to properly manage MSW;
- Limited technical and financial capacities;
- Quick turnover of municipal administrations leading to a lack of continuity in MSW activities; and
- Lack of information to facilitate informed decision making.
Naucalpan de Juárez and Waste Management
The municipality of Naucalpan, located in the State of Mexico, just northwest of Mexico City, is home to more than 800,000 people, 95% of whom reside in the municipality’s capital. This highly industrialized municipality has observed major population growth since the 1960s, and waste generation has risen alongside that growth, with nearly 500,000 metric tons of waste deposited in the Naucalpan landfill each year.
The municipality has taken some key steps to promote sustainable waste management practices in the last decade. In 2016, Naucalpan joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Municipal Solid Waste Initiative and, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, conducted a waste characterization study to understand the waste stream and generate the data needed to determine the feasibility of a biogas project to treat organic waste at the landfill. The study found that almost 70% of Naucalpan’s waste could be composted or used for biogas, recycled, or otherwise reused. Additional analyses indicated that the biogas project could provide a rapid return on investment and significant emissions savings.
Walking through the sanitary landfill alongside Naucalpan officials, our team saw firsthand the waste management practices and day-to-day landfill operations being put to use. While we were on site, we saw multiple heavy-duty trucks arrive with a wide variety of non-separated waste, which was added to the active landfill cell and later compacted by being driven over. Truck after truck after truck piled up the collected waste. Through multiple wells embedded throughout the landfill, the facility operators captured the landfill gas and later burned it with individual flares.
The Start of a Partnership
Following the landfill visit, we met with Naucalpan’s Advisor for Sustainable Development of the Mayor’s Office and the General Director of Public Services and discussed the work Naucalpan has done to improve waste management and mitigate waste methane, as well as the challenges the municipality has faced. We learned about their needs and identified synergies with CATF’s work to mitigate waste methane emissions globally.
Waste management strategies are not only critical to mitigating climate change but are also important for preserving the environmental and human health and well-being of communities around the world. Organic waste diversion projects like the one proposed in Naucalpan could include co-benefits such as:
- Greenhouse gas and air pollutant mitigation
- Revenue from natural gas or electricity sales
- Job creation
- Reduced leachate production at the landfill
- Reduced landfill site odor
- Reduced potential of spontaneous landfill fires
CATF will continue to work with Naucalpan to support the municipality’s efforts on waste management and waste methane. This support includes a comprehensive characterization study of the municipal solid waste entering Naucalpan’s landfill, a review and update of waste sector activities in the municipality’s Climate Action Program, and technical assistance and expert advice in the development of an anaerobic digester at the landfill.
These efforts will help accelerate CATF’s work to raise awareness about the importance of reducing methane emissions from the global waste sector, and advocate for proven practices and technological solutions that benefit local communities. They are part of CATF and RMI’s Waste Methane Assessment Platform work, funded by the Global Methane Hub, which seeks to improve access to actionable data for waste methane mitigation.
We look forward to a strong partnership with Naucalpan de Juarez to facilitate the changes needed at the local level, with an eye toward both the benefits on the ground for the people of Naucalpan and the planetary benefits of reduced methane emissions.