Some 14 million tons of municipal solid waste were generated in Colombia in 2018, at a rate of 0.77 Kg/person/day. Municipal solid waste consisted mainly of organic (61.5%) and recyclable (30%) materials; 50% of the recyclables came from packaging. Some 83% of municipal solid waste ends up in landfills and 17% is recovered, mainly by waste pickers.

The country generates 25 million tons of construction and demolition waste every year [1]. The pork and poultry industries together generate 135 million tons of organic waste per year (as of 2015) [2].  

Over 300,000 tons of hazardous waste are estimated to have been generated in 2016, 388 tons of which were stored; 135,486 tons were externally treated; 48,230 tons recovered; and 121,112 tons disposed of in secure landfills.

The coverage of collection and transport services of non-recyclable waste increased from 97.3% in 2015 to 98.6%. Only Bogotá works with five waste companies (one per zone). In the rest of the country, households can decide which waste company will collect their waste. Colombia has 62 official regional landfills, receiving solid waste from 961 (out of the 1,103) municipalities, 96% of the Municipal Waste generated in the country. The rest of the waste is disposed of in unregulated, open dumpsites, where an estimated 10.3 million tons of solid waste were disposed of in 2018.

Particulate matter, PM10, was the air contaminant most closely monitored in 2019; it was measured in 153 (87.4%) of the 175 monitoring stations.

The latest reports on air quality show that PM2.5 is the pollutant with the greatest potential to affect the national territory. The areas most affected by significant levels of air pollution are the Valle de Aburrá Metropolitan Area, the Puente Aranda, Carvajal, and Kennedy towns in Bogotá, the Ráquira municipality in Boyacá, and the ACOPI industrial zone in the Yumbo municipality (Valle del Cauca).


Solid waste issues stem from population growth, the increase in consumption patterns, and its heavy concentration in urban centres. Overall, urban centres offer better income and a greater variety of products with characteristics and packaging that encourage higher consumption.

PM2.5 in Colombia is mainly produced by heavy vehicles that use diesel as fuel.


Key policies and governance approach

The National Sanitary Code includes regulatory provisions for the collection, transport, and final disposal of municipal solid waste. The Policy for Integrated Waste Management aims "to prevent or minimise the risks to humans and the environment produced by solid and hazardous waste, and especially limit the amount or the dangerousness of those that arrive at final disposal sites”.

The Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (PGIR) set goals, programmes, projects, and activities aimed to attain an adequate management of solid waste based on its characteristics. The PGIR aims to reduce solid waste generation and increase reuse; it includes programmes to promote solid waste discrimination at the source, to optimise collection and transportation services, and encourage the reuse of raw material.

Colombia has a long tradition in controlling air pollution. The country implemented its first air quality monitoring station in 1967 but it was only until 1982 when the country began regulating the concentration of pollutants. A key step in the control of air pollution was the adoption of the Regulation for the Protection and Control of Air Quality in 1995, which was later consolidated in 2015. Policy and regulatory instruments related to air quality include the Policy for the Improvement of Air Quality, the Strategy for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the National Air Quality Strategy.



The objectives and goals of the Solid Waste Policy have not yet been met. Solid waste generation is still growing, due not only to unsustainable consumption policies, but also to the migration of displaced population to urban centres. However, there has been significant progress in the regulation of solid waste. There is a comprehensive regulatory framework in place but effectiveness could be improved with a better structured, more coordinated institutional framework. Integrated solid waste management should be implemented and reducing waste generation should be encouraged in order to minimize its adverse environmental impacts.

IDEAM manages the Air Quality Information Subsystem (SISAIRE), the main source of information for the design, evaluation, and adjustment of national and regional policies and strategies for the control of air quality and the prevention of air pollution. Based on this information, IDEAM periodically compiles and publishes the Report on the State of Air Quality in Colombia since 2006. The report describes the evolution of air quality monitoring and the state of the air resource at the national level. Air quality monitoring has improved considerably in the last ten years; there were 137 monitoring stations in 2010, and this increased to 175 in 2019.

Colombia has made significant progress in the indicators of compliance with the National Development Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals 3.9 and 11.6. The fraction of monitoring stations where PM10 concentration meets the WHO Air Quality Guidelines increased from 30.1% in 2018 to 33.7% in 2019, gradually approaching the 35% goal set for 2022 in the PND and making progress towards the 70% goal set in the SDGs for 2030.

PM10 was the air pollutant most frequently evaluated in 2019. Together with PM2.5, it showed the concentrations that most often exceeded the maximum permissible levels, nationwide. 92.7% of the country’s monitoring stations reported compliance with the annual maximum permissible level, a 1.8% reduction compared to 2018. 93.5% of the monitoring stations recorded PM2.5 annual average concentrations that complied with the maximum permissible annual level, a reduction of 0.7% compared to 2018. 


Goals and Ambitions

The National Development Plan 2018–2022 sets the goal that, by 2022, 35% of the air quality monitoring stations show average concentrations that comply with WHO’s Intermediate Objectives OI-3. By 2030, Colombia aims to reach 70%.

  • Strengthen efforts to reduce the impact of urban air pollution on public health, and gradually adjust local air quality standards to reach international standards.
  • Since PM10 concentrations have been significantly reduced in some cities thanks to the use of improved fuels, better traffic regulation, and promotion of public transport systems, expansion of these strategies to other cities would be useful.
  • Significant progress has been made in managing some types of hazardous waste through extended producer’s responsibility programmes. However, better management and control of hazardous waste from the oil and mining sectors is still required.