The Brazilian Policy on Solid Waste

The Federal Law # 12.305/10 (National Policy on Solid Waste) establishing principles, objectives and instruments, as well as the directives relating to the integrated management and administration of solid waste in Brazil, including those of a hazardous nature, the responsibilities of the parties generating the waste and of the government and applicable economic instruments.

Subject to the observation of this Law are those companies and individuals of a public or private structure which are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the generation of solid waste, and those which develop actions related to the integrated management or administration of solid waste.


Sectoral agreement: act of a contractual nature, signed between the government and manufacturers, importers, distributors or traders, with a view to the implementation of the responsibility divided up by the product’s life cycle;

Product life cycle: series of stages which involve the development of the product, the obtaining of raw materials, the manufacturing process, consumption and final condition;

Environmentally suitable final destination: destination of waste which includes the reuse, recycling, composting, recuperation and energy-related approval or other destinations acceptable to the competent organs, amongst them being the final arrangement, observing specific operational norms in order to avoid damage or risk to public health and safety and the minimization of adverse environmental impact;

Environmentally suitable final arrangement: ordered distribution of refuse in landfills, observing specific operational norms in order to avoid damages or risks to public health and safety and the minimization of adverse environmental impact;

Generators of solid waste: companies or individuals of a public or private structure which generate solid waste, directly or indirectly, those involved in consumption being included amongst such group;

Management of solid waste: set of actions exercised, directly or indirectly, during the stages of collection, transportation, transshipment, treatment and the environmentally suitable final destination of solid waste and the environmentally suitable final arrangement of the refuse, in accordance with the integrated municipal management plan for solid waste or the solid waste management plan, as demanded in the form of this Law;

Reverse logistics: instrument of economic and social development characterized by a set of actions, procedures and means destined towards enabling the collection and restitution of the solid waste for the corporate sector, for reuse, as part of its cycle or other productive cycles, or another environmentally suitable final destination;

Refuse: solid waste for which, once all the treatment and recuperation possibilities through available technological and economically viable processes have been exhausted, there exists no possibility other than the environmentally suitable final destination;

Solid waste: discarded material, substances, objects or goods which are the result of human activity in society, the final destination of which is conducted or is proposed to be conducted or is obliged to be conducted, in solid or semisolid states, as well as gases contained in recipients and liquids with particularities which make their disposal into the public waste system or bodies of water impossible, or which demand for such type of disposal technical or economically unviable solutions, in view of the best technology available;

Responsibility shared by the product life cycle: set of individualized and attached attributes pertaining to the manufacturers, importers, distributers and traders, the consumers he urban cleaning and solid waste handlers, to minimize the volume of the solid waste and refuse generated, as well as reduce the impact caused to human health and to the quality of the environment arising from the life cycle of the products, under the terms of this law.


During the management and administration of solid waste, the following order of priority should be observed: non-generation, reduction, reuse, recycling, treatment of solid waste and environmentally suitable final destination of the refuse.

The solid waste is classified as follows in relation to their origin:

a) domestic waste: that originating from domestic activities in urban residences;
b) urban cleaning waste: waste resulting from sweeping, public parks and public throughways and other services of public cleaning;
c) urban solid waste: that covered by points “a” and “b”;
d) waste from commercial establishments and service providers: those generated in these activities, excepting those mentioned in points “b”, “e”, “g”, “h” and “j”;
e) waste from basic sanitation public services: that generated in these activities, excepting those mentioned in point “c”;
f) industrial waste: that generated in manufacturing processes and industrial installations
g) health service waste: that generated by the health services, as defined by regulations or norms established by the competent organs;
h) civil construction waste: that generated in constructions, refurbishments, repairs and demolitions of civil construction works, including the results of the preparation and excavation of land for civil works;
i) agrosilvopastoral waste: that generated in agricultural, cattle breeding and silvicutural activities, including that related to the raw materials in these activities;
j) transport service waste: that originating from ports, airports, customs terminals, bus terminals and train stations and cross-border travel;
k) mining waste: that generated by the activity of research, extraction or processing of ores.


Subject to the creation of a solid waste management plan are:

(i) the generators of the solid waste outlined in the abovementioned points “e”, “f”, “g” and “k”; (ii) those commercial establishments and service suppliers which: generate hazardous waste and which, even though characterized as non-hazardous, by their nature, are not equipped for domestic waste by the municipal government;
(iii) civil construction companies;
(iv) those responsible for the terminals and other installations referred to in point “j”;
(v) those responsible for agrosilvopastoral activities.

The solid waste management plan carries the following minimum content:

(i) description of the enterprise or activity;
(ii) diagnosis of solid waste generated or administrated, containing the origin, volume and characterization of the waste, including the environmental damage related to it;
(iii) proof that the norms established by the competent environmental and sanitary organs have been observed;
(iv) identification of solutions that are associated or shared with other generators;
(v) preventative and corrective actions to be performed in situations involving incorrect management or accidents;
(vi) targets and procedures related to the minimization of the generation of solid waste, for reuse and recycling;
(vii) if possible, actions relating to shared responsibility for the life cycles of products;
(viii) cleaning measures concerning the environmental damages related to the solid waste;
(ix) frequency of its revision, with, if possible, the period of validity of the respective operations license being observed.


The government, the corporate sector and the community are responsible for the effectiveness of the actions aimed at ensuring the observance of the National Policy on Solid Waste and the directives and other determinations established in the Law and its regulation.

The generator of domestic solid waste has terminated its responsibility for the waste with suitable arrangements being made for the collection or return.

The shared responsibility for the life cycle of the products is established and is to be implemented in an individualized and connected manner, covering the manufacturers, importers, distributers and traders and the consumers and title holders of the urban cleaning and solid waste handlers.

Without affecting the obligations established in the solid waste management plan and with a view to strengthening the shared responsibility and its objectives, the manufacturers, importers, distributers and traders have responsibilities which cover:

(i) investment in the development, manufacture and placement in the market of products: which are suitable, following use by the customer, for reuse, recycling or any other form of environmentally suitable destination; the manufacture and use of which generate the lowest amount of solid waste possible;
(ii) the communication of information relating to means of avoiding, recycling and eliminating the solid waste associated with their respective products;
(iii) the collection of products and residual waste following use, as well as their subsequent environmentally suitable final destination;
(iv) the promise, once agreements have been signed with the Municipality, to participate in the actions outlined in the municipal solid waste integrated management plan, in the case of products which have still not been included in this system of reverse logistics.

The packaging, in its turn, should be manufactured from materials which provide for the reuse or recycling, it falling to the respective responsible parties to ensure that the packaging be: restricted in volume and weight to the required dimensions for the protection of the content and for the commercialization of the product; being protected in a way for it to be reused in a technically viable manner; and recycled, if reuse does not prove to be possible.

Responsible for the observance of these arrangements are all those who: manufacture packaging or supply materials for the manufacture of packaging; and those who place in circulation packaging, materials for the manufacture of packaging or packaged products, at any stage of the commercial chain.

In fact, those obliged to structure and implement systems of reverse logistics, involving the return of the products following their use by the consumer, in a manner which is independent of the public urban cleaning and solid waste management service are the manufacturers, importers, distributers and traders of:

(i) agro toxics, their waste and packaging;
(ii) batteries;
(iii) tires;
(iv) lubrification oils, their waste and packaging
(v) fluorescent light bulbs and those using sodium vapor and mercury, and those using mixed light;
(vi) Electro-electronics products and their components.

In line with the arrangements made by regulations or in accordance with the sectoral agreements signed between the government and the private sector, the reverse logistics systems shall be extended to products traded in plastic, metallic or glass packaging, and to other products and packaging, primarily considering the degree and extent of the impact of the waste generated on the public health and the environment.

Without affecting the specific demands, it falls to the manufacturers, importers, distributors and traders of products ii, iii and vi mentioned above, or of products and packaging referred to in items i and vi, to take all the necessary measures to ensure the implementation and operationalization of the reverse logistics systems under its charge, allowing it to, amongst other procedures:

(i) implement purchase procedures in relation to the products and packaging used;
(ii)make delivery points available for the reused and recyclable waste;
(iii) act in partnership with cooperatives or other types of associations involved in the collection of reusable or recyclable materials.

After use, the consumers should return the products and packaging mentioned in items i to v and other products or packaging which are the subject of reverse logistics.

The traders and distributors should effect such return to the manufacturers or the importers of the collected or returned products and packaging.

The manufacturers and importers shall provide an environmentally suitable destination for the products and packaging collected or returned, with the waste being sent to an environmentally suitable final destination.

If the title holder to the public urban cleaning and solid waste management service, by means of a sectoral agreement with the private sector, assumes the activities of the manufacturers, importers, distributers and traders in the systems of reverse logic involved in the products and packaging, the government actions shall be duly remunerated in a manner previously agreed between the parties.

The sectoral agreements may provide national, regional, state or municipal coverage. For the application of competing regulations, the signed agreements which have less geographical reach, may expand, but not ease, the measures for environmental protection contained in the signed sectoral agreements with greater geographical reach.


Without affecting the obligation – regardless of the existence of guilt – to repair the damages caused, the action or omission of individuals or companies who have failed to observe the precepts of this Law or its regulations, shall subject the infracting party to the sanctions established by the law, especially those established by Law nr. 9.605/98, which “arranges for the penal and administrative sanctions arising from conduct or activities that are harmful tothe environment, and provides for other arrangements,” and its regulations.