Solid waste management and water pollution are among the country’s most serious environmental issues, particularly in urban areas.

No system for monitoring solid waste generation is in place. The rate of municipal solid waste generation in urban areas has been estimated at 1.2 kg/person/day on average (range: 0.5-1.5 kg/person/day). Some 2,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste are estimated to be generated every day in urban areas in the Central Department. Approximately 0.24 kg/bed of hazardous waste from health care centers are estimated to be generated every day.

Municipal solid waste management is mostly limited to collection and final disposal. Household surveys show that the coverage of domestic solid waste collection services has improved over the last decade. Municipal and private services were able to collect domestic solid waste from only 40.3% of Paraguayan households in 2010. Service coverage improved by 2019 to 52.6% countrywide, with large disparities between urban and rural areas (75.6% vs. 16.3% as of 2015). Unattended households disposed of their wastes by burning (39%), burying (9%), or dumping them in ravines, rivers, or elsewhere. Except for the capital city, hazardous waste from health care centers are usually collected together with municipal solid waste.

Only 36% of the solid waste collected is estimated to be disposed of in controlled landfills, while 72% is disposed of in unregulated open dumps. 

Thus, municipal solid waste management is deficient in all its stages, which leads to the accumulation of garbage and other waste in streets and public areas, informal activities of solid waste recovery, dumping of solid waste into waterbodies, and people working in open dumping sites under inhuman conditions. Existent dumping sites thus become the source of air, soil, and water pollution, release large amounts of GHG, and pose a threat to public health.

No water quality monitoring network is in place. However, observations have shown the high and increasing pollution of Paraguay’s sources of surface and ground water used to supply water for human consumption and other uses. For instance, the Patiño aquifer and the Ypakaraí lake are known to have high levels of faecal coliforms, nitrates, hydrocarbons and other pollutants. In fact, the poor quality of Paraguay’s water sources has become evident and worrying, given the elevated rates of water-related mortality in the country. The mortality rate attributed to unsafe water, unsafe sanitation, and lack of hygiene (SDG indicator 3.9.2) in Paraguay was estimated at 1.46 per 100,000 people in 2016, the 11th highest rate in the LAC region. Water pollution and lack of services in human settlements create health issues especially for people in overcrowded slums, urban areas with derelict land, and deforested rural areas, that can lead to epidemics and communicable diseases.

No nationwide air quality monitoring network is in place and data on air emissions are not available for all years and for the entire territory. Exposure of the Paraguayan population to air pollution is still relatively low. Average PM2.5 concentration was 14.3 ug/m3 in 2015 [1]. Peak PM2.5 concentrations decreased by nearly 40% between 2005 and 2013. The proportion of the population exposed to PM2.5 concentrations above 10 ug/m3 (the standard level of air quality), fell significantly from 71% to 14%, over the same period. Mean annual exposure to PM2.5 in Asunción shows the city has moderate levels of PM concentrations.

Informal, often illegal recycling of e-waste to recover valuable materials such as gold and copper provides opportunities for vulnerable segments of the population. These processes directly and indirectly affect the health of vulnerable populations, including the workers themselves, children, and pregnant women. Workers’ exposure to hazardous materials in the e-waste recycling sector may occur given the type and quantity of e-waste, processing time, and the methods employed. Toxic substances from e-waste can move into the ecosystem through multiple routes, including water, air, and soil, from where they can then enter the food chain leading to indirect exposure. The extent to which e-waste contamination contributes to adverse health effects is difficult to assess. However, the adverse effects on health would be more significant for communities living in areas where informal recycling takes place.


No comprehensive studies about solid waste management in Paraguay are available.

Waste management issues stem, first, from the urbanisation process that has increased municipal waste generation, and will continue to do so in the future, adding pressure to the already insufficient waste collection services. For instance, approximately 43% of the country’s population live in the Asunción metropolitan area.

Secondly, from the scarce resources devoted to waste management. In 2010, only 19% of municipalities had a proper waste management plan. The level of human resources (3.1 employees per 10,000 inhabitants) dedicated to waste collection and management in municipalities is low, as is the number of collection vehicles for waste management (1.49 vehicles per 10,000 inhabitants).

Third, from the increase of the informal economy and the lack of co-ordination in planning at the national, subnational, and municipal levels.

In addition, Paraguay lacks infrastructure to discriminate waste collected and promote recycling. Recycling thus remains a very limited activity. No extended producer responsibility system is in place. This system requires manufacturers of hazardous waste (pesticides, batteries, tyres, fluorescent lamps and electronic devices) to recover these products at the end of their useful life.

The main causes of water pollution in Paraguay include:

The lack of an adequate sewerage system and the low levels of water treatment. Only 4% of the wastewater collected is estimated to be treated prior to being discharged into receiving water bodies. Every day, 2.9 million cubic meters of untreated wastewater are discharged into the Paraguay River and only 11% of sewage is treated before it reaches the river. Untreated wastewater infiltrates shallow aquifers (that many families use for water supply) or is directly discharged into the streets, seriously affecting the environment and the health of the population.

The insufficient and inadequate management of municipal and industrial solid waste, which favours the dumping of garbage and other waste into water bodies.

Overexploitation of rivers and aquifers driven by population growth. For instance, the Patiño aquifer occupies 1,173 km² of the subsoil of Asunción and the Central and Paraguarí departments and is one of the main sources of water supply for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use in the Asunción metropolitan area, supplying almost 3 million people. Due to the overexploitation of the aquifer, the water table has been continuously dropping, compromising water availability.

Poor coordination between national, departmental, and municipal authorities in the formulation of plans, programmes, and projects for water management, and the lack of a regulatory framework that prevents and controls the contamination of water sources.

The rapid growth of the motor vehicle fleet and increased use of fossil fuels appear to be driving air quality issues in urban areas of Paraguay. A total of 2,413,964 motor vehicles (mainly motorcycles and automobiles) were reported in 2019, countrywide, compared to the only 890,931 reported in 2010. About 29% (699,776 units) of those vehicles reside in the Central department.

No laws specifically addressing e-waste exist in Paraguay. However, Law No. 42/90 prohibits the import, storage, and use of industrial wastes considered as hazardous or toxic, and establishes penalties for non-compliance. The country has also enacted the Solid Waste Act and Law No. 3956 on the Integrated management of solid waste in Paraguay. The Basel Convention was adopted by in 1995.

The absence of legislation and specific rules for e-waste management create a worrisome situation, which relevant institutions have started to focus on addressing. One underlying issue is the general public’s lack of awareness about the proper disposal of e-waste. Studies on solid waste in Paraguay have paid little or nil attention to e-waste. It is understood that e-waste, in general, is part of solid waste.


Key policies and governance approach

The policy and regulatory framework for solid waste management and water pollution is incomplete or insufficient. For instance, the Law 3239/07 aims to ensure the adequate, sustainable management and use of the country’s water resources. However, the regulatory instruments necessary for its proper implementation are still to be developed.

The air quality law was passed in 2014. Air quality regulation and monitoring is under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment; in 2014, the National Air Directorate was created, and air quality towers have been installed to better monitor air quality.

Paraguay has enacted the Solid Waste Act and Law No. 3956 on the Integrated management of solid waste, which designates the Ministry of the Environment as the country’s regulatory authority.


Initiatives and Development Plans

The country’s main solid waste landfill, Cateura, serves the Asunción metropolitan area, and is in the process of being improved. Due to increased media visibility, the population has become more aware of the importance of waste management. Paraguay’s Ministry of Planning stated, in 2002, that solid waste management requires major improvements. Paraguay’s municipalities are working to establish selective and appropriate solid waste collection systems and recycling programmes in cities.


Goals and Ambitions

Strategy 1.4 Suitable and sustainable habitats of Paraguay’s National Development Plan [2] aims to improve household and habitat conditions as well as access to basic services such as water supply, sanitation, air quality, soil quality, and solid waste management. Goals include reducing by 95% deaths attributable to air pollution, and attaining 100% coverage in the management and disposal of municipal and industrial solid wastes.

  • The policy and regulatory framework for solid waste management and water pollution needs to be further developed and strengthened.
  • Financing the large investments needed for improving and expanding the infrastructure for wastewater collection and treatment and solid waste management in order to meet the current and future demand will be challenging, given the limited resources and capacities of local governments.
  • Specific actions to address pollution of water bodies include reduce deforestation and encourage reforestation actions, implement programmes and projects aimed at improving water quality, and construct mechanisms to enforce compliance with water and other environmental regulations.