BOSTON, Massachusetts — In Chile, a community on the outskirts of Santiago is taking powerful steps toward waste reduction. Through the utilization of a large-scale composting program, the neighborhood of La Pintana has been able to save funds that were previously necessary for waste management.
Santiago, the capital city of Chile, is home to 52 distinct communes. La Pintana presents one of the highest rates of poverty out of all of these, consistently hovering at around 42.5% of the 177,000 inhabitants. This is mainly due to the displacement of poor families from wealthier parts of the city during the political upheaval in the 20th century. Reuters quotes Claudia Pizarro, the mayor of La Pintana, saying, “The state has been treating people of La Pintana harshly, with no services, no health facilities, no education. There are children in the street, crimes, a lot of inequality.” It has become necessary for local leaders to find ways to support their struggling population. One innovative way has been the introduction of a composting program to cut down on waste management fees.
In 2005, researchers began searching for ways to cut down on landfill costs. They collected data on the current state of waste management in La Pintana, finding that the amount of solid waste one person generates was 0.77 kg per day. They determined that collecting vegetable waste would be the most influential approach to recycling, and therefore began the composting program currently in place.
Residents received 35-liter bins for compost collection, which municipality workers collect throughout the week and transport to a treatment facility within the commune. The treatment facility allows the waste to become fertilizer, which people later use at a nursery within the commune. Therefore, people save money on both waste management and fertilizer, contributing to a more efficient, plant-based, circular economy.
Each week, the municipality collects 140 tons of plant waste from the community of La Pintana, Reuters reports. This is 50% of the community’s organic waste, a massive number when compared to the 0.8% average collection rate in Chile as a whole. Chile has the highest output of waste in South America and La Pintana is making key steps to reducing the effects of this within its community.
Recent data estimates that La Pintana saves $100,000 per year as a result of the composting project, Phys.org reports. This money could go toward key resources, programs and support for the inhabitants of the neighborhood. In addition, the new nursery that the authorities built at the old landfill employs former inmates, allowing them to find a fresh start within their community. In lieu of unsightly waste and landfills, the neighborhood has seen an increase in green spaces, bringing joy to longtime residents.
According to Phys.org, due to the success of the composting project in La Pintana, Chile’s Environmental Minister Maisa Rojas hopes to expand the project to the rest of the county. Hopefully, the project will be able to progress and grow so that more communities are able to benefit from the clear positive effects of the program.
– Hailey Dooley