Today, only 58% of urban waste goes to sanitary landfills and 9% of municipalities have developed a strategic plan to erradicate solid waste disposal. The National Plan for Solid Waste Management introduced in 2010 prohibits open air waste disposal from April 2014. At the same time, it encourages the creation of sanitary landfills and smart utilization of waste incentivizing Brazilian municipalities to develop a strategy for handling solid waste.
In some of the larger cities, the lack of space for disposal of solid waste is a problem and waste space is purchased from nearby municipalities. The National Plan for Solid Waste Management opens an opportunity for installation of biogas plants for energy production. There were four biogas plants in 2011 and seven operating by the end of 2012 - all in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Minas Gerais and Paraná. Most of the biogas is used for electricity production. São Paulo has the largest landfill gas power plant in South America: Aterro Bandeirantes, a Dutch-Brazilian collaborative venture with an annual production of 170 GW.
By 2020, there will be 62.7 million tons of urban waste produced annually in Brazil out of which 56% will be organic material with the potential of biogas to electricity production of 1700 MW.
This presents an important window of opportunity for biogas projects due to:
- Government macro-economic plan of diversification of the energy matrix with clean energy
- Fiscal incentives for renewable energy sector
- Growing electricity demand in all Brazil
- Municipalities need to find solutions for urban solid waste treatment by the end of 2014
- Municipalities are currently evaluating the available technologies for waste transformation into energy (biomass, biogas, etc)