This article summarises, and comments on, the applicability of Mexican Official Standard NOM-161-SEMARNAT-2011 (NOM-161), with regards to obligations concerning the handling of special waste among companies in Mexico. (A Mexican Official Standard is the compulsory enforcement of technical regulation issued by the relevant agencies, which establishes rules, specifications, attributes, guidelines, characteristics or requirements that: are applicable to a product, process, installation, system, activity, service, or method of production or operation; relate to terminology, signage, packaging, marking or labelling; or refer to its compliance or application.)
The General Law for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste (LGEPGIR) and Regulations of the General Law for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste (R-LGEPGIR), contain the obligation for companies or individuals to have special-waste handling plans.
Special-waste handling plans are subject to state jurisdiction; therefore, the 32 states of Mexico can issue their own guidelines as well as specific legislation regarding the registration of the aforementioned special-waste handling plans, as well as applying, NOM-161, which applies to all generators of special waste.
The NOM-161 has been in force since 31 July 2013 and has, among others, the following objectives:
The NOM-161 is mandatory nationwide for large generators of special/urban solid waste; and for large generators (and producers, importers, exporters and distributors) of products that, when discarded, are considered to be special waste subject to a handling plan. The waste generated from the mining/metallurgic industry is excluded from the NOM-161.
For a better understanding of this matter, it is worth reviewing some key definitions:
Companies that can be classified as large generators of urban solid waste and/or special waste must review the list of special waste subject to a handling plan as covered by the NOM-161, in order to identify the special waste requiring the development and implementation of such a handling plan.
A handling plan may include two or more of the waste types listed in the NOM-161. (The plan may establish the gradual incorporation of other waste types requiring a handling plan within five years of filing with the corresponding authority.)
Once the handling plan has been created, as of 31 July 2013, it must be filed with the state that issued said procedures, in order to comply with requirements.
Handling plans must comply with the following basic requirements:
Handling plans must also comply with the certain additional requirements. With regard to potential convolutions in the handling plan, it may fall into one or more of the following categories.
These are created by private parties that, pursuant to the LGPGIR, are obliged to the create and implementof a handling plan. A private handling plan must contain a description of the internal and external infrastructure involved; and, where applicable, a description of the strategies of prevention and minimisation (which may include substitution of raw materials, changes in technology or the application of best practices).
All the strategies proposed must be viable in technical, economic and environmental terms, as must the programming, implementation and operation of the handling plan.
These are implemented by private parties with the participation of the authorities, within the scope of their jurisdiction.
A mixed handling plan must:
Regarding potential cooperation between subjects obliged to create and implement a handling plan, it may fall into one or more of the following categories.
This occurs where one obliged subject establishes, in a single plan, the integral handling it will give to one, some or all types of waste that it generates.
The individual handling plans must contain only the general elements and information detailed in the private handling plan criteria above.
This occurs where it is determined that the integral handling of one or more types of specific waste can be formulated or implemented by several obliged subjects. A collective handling plan must:
A handling plan may be applied:
It is important to note that national or regional handling plans must be filed before:
The following waste-stream categories apply:
Pursuant to the NOM-161, each state must create a registry for the handling plans filed by the obliged subjects, and make this registry available to the general public, including previous authorisations given to these obliged subjects. It would therefore be wise for a company to determine what information contained in the plan should be classified and treated as confidential, which would prevent the authority from revealing it.
A company should determine if it is a large generator of special and/or urban solid waste; and, if so, formulate a handling plan according to the guidelines and legislation of the specific state in which it is located. The company should following the procedure indicated in the NOM-161, which means filing it with the corresponding authority, and complying with all requirements and formalities established by said authority.
By failing to register a special waste handling plan, the company may be in violation of the corresponding state environmental legislation, and thus subject to sanctions.
Waste requiring special handling, and therefore subject to a handling plan, is indicated in the following list of categories:
In addition, special handling plans are also applicable to products that are no longer of use and and fall into the following categories;