Santiago's poorest municipality, an example of composting in Chile and beyond

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The poorest municipality in Santiago, an example of composting in Chile and beyond

The municipality of La Pintana recycles around 20 tonnes of organic waste per day and saves around 100 $000 per year, which she then reinvests in the community.

In the poorest of the municipalities on the outskirts of Santiago, trucks have been collecting organic waste from the inhabitants for many years now. The municipality of La Pintana is an example of composting in Chile, a country that produces the most waste in South America but only recycles a tiny part of it.

Discarded in bins, boxes or even plastic bags then hung on doors or trees, the peels of potatoes, avocados, oranges or oranges ;other fruits or vegetables have been collected daily for 17 years.

Organic waste represents half of the total waste produced by each family in this municipality of nearly 190,000 inhabitants, of whom just over 15% live in poverty. This is the highest rate in the Chilean capital and its suburbs.

Among the first municipalities in Santiago to have organized such a collection, La Pintana also has a municipal nursery, built on an old dump. This nursery provides 100,000 plants of 400 different species each year which are then used to green the municipality.

For me, it is very important that the city has taken this initiative environmental management and motivated residents to do the sorting, says, standing on the step attached to the back of the dump truck in charge of the collection, Escarlett Isler, an employee municipal.

There has been a change in people: they now care about their waste and no longer put vegetables in the common garbage, says José Vera, owner of a small vegetable shop, after going out on the street two large boxes filled with organic waste.

This municipal program has succeeded in creating a culture of composting in a country that produces an average of 1.13 kg of waste per person per day and only recycles 0.8%, according to the Ministry of Environment. x27;Chilean environment.

Once the collection is finished, the dump trucks return to the headquarters of the Directorate General for the Environment (DIGA) to drop off their load. After a summary sorting carried out in the dumpster, the waste is poured into wheelbarrows then transported to a composting area, which is carried out using earthworms.

This work gives us wealth, it gives us joy. The commune is getting better with gardens, enthuses Jeannette Gonzalez, a municipal worker who flowers a driveway near a communal sports building.

Chile is the country in South America that produces the most waste, according to the World Bank, while in terms of composting it is well below the Latin American average of 4%, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Thanks to this project, the municipality of La Pintana recovers approximately 20 tons of organic waste per day and saves approximately $100,000 per year, which it then reinvests in the community.

When we took over this management, it was a municipality where there was a landfill every 200 meters. Today, we no longer see that, notes to AFP Mayor Claudia Pizarro, whose city has received several international awards for this program.

“It's a virtuous circle: people only see where there is had a landfill, there is greenery and everything is flourishing. They stop littering there.

— Claudia Pizarro, Mayor of La Pintana

However, organic waste isn't the only one getting a second chance at La Pintana: more than half of the fifteen employees of the municipal nursery are prisoners who have swapped prison for community work.

Everything that is produced here also benefits them, because they are children of the commune. This gives them a sense of belonging, emphasizes Cintia Ortiz, who has been in charge of the structure for nearly seven years.

Chilean Minister of the Environment, Maisa Rojas, recently announced a bill intended to replicate La Pintana's example in the rest of the country.

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