ThoughtsandThings Interviews 0 Waste on Recycling in Chile
ThoughtsandThings: Can you tell me a bit about how 0 Waste came about and why an interactive solution to recycling in Chile is necessary?
0 Waste: In Chile, waste pollution is around 7.48 million tons per year. From all of that, we are only recycling two percent. That is a very low percentage for a developing country that wants to be a leader in South America. 0 Waste was formed in January this year after I went to a recycling point and found it closed and full of trash. For some communes, this is a temporary thing but for many communes, this is a daily reality. Pollution is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. All of the recycling that is not actually inside the bins at the recycling points is not recycled and goes to the landfill. Our objective at 0 Waste is to reduce the amount of waste in Chile that is destined to go to the landfills and make a contribution to the people and the environment. To go back to your question about why an interactive solution is necessary, it’s important to point out that there are 346 communes in Chile, and that every commune recycles differently. Many people don’t know where or how to recycle materials so we wanted to give them guidance, contribute to recycling education, and help companies and governments improve their efficiency in waste management, the recollection of materials, etc. We also want to help companies move towards a circular economic model by helping companies gain more traction of their products, implementing a QR code that will help people know where to recycle the type of material, what treatment is required before recycling and other uses for that material.
ThoughtsandThings: What are some of the most common misbeliefs about recycling in Chile?
0 Waste: That businesses or government institutions don’t recycle. There are many efforts to recycle and the main reason they don’t recycle many of the materials is that they aren’t in the proper condition to recycle. An example of this is a plastic bottle that still has liquid in it, and hasn’t been prepared properly for that treatment (by cleaning & separating materials). What usually happens is people bring their recycling to the recycling point without the proper treatment (cleaning) and these materials contaminate the rest of the recycling, and therefore cannot be recycled.
"In Chile, waste pollution is around 7.48 million tons per year. From all of that, we are only recycling two percent."
ThoughtsandThings: Recycling seems to be an “easy” role that many can participate in, so why does 98% go to the landfills?
0 Waste: There are a few reasons for this such as people believe that their communities just throw the recycling to the landfill (general mistrust of government/municipality/building), it requires an extra effort (people have to separate the trash, clean the product, then take the material to the recycling point), there might be a lack of space in their home to separate the recycling, they don’t have an incentive to recycle, it feels like something hard to do or people are just not interested.
ThoughtsandThings: Got it. I’ve seen great initiatives where you can pay the metro fare with plastic bottles. Is this what you mean by an initiative?
0 Waste: This could be a great initiative for Chile to encourage people to change their behavior. It hasn’t happened yet but hopefully, it will in the future!
"There is a lack of knowledge of the responsibility each person has as a consumer and as a recycler, and how this impacts the environment. All of our actions have an impact. From the way we buy stuff to the way we interact with each other. 0 Waste believes we need to put more effort into solving this problem, the plastic problem."
ThoughtsandThings: How is 0 Waste going to help people recycle?
0 Waste: We are going to help by giving information on the recycling points. On the app, we will facilitate access to all places, containers, and programs where people can recycle. We are also helping by educating people through teaching them where and how to recycle each material. We are creating awareness of a huge problem, illegal landfills. These exist in poorer communities and are a large problem because people just throw trash there, there are no regulations, it’s harmful to the people and to the ecosystem. 0 Waste is a tool for the transition towards a circular economy for people and companies.
ThoughtsandThings: Chile has the largest coast in the world. A lot of our plastic that we don't recycle goes to the ocean. That's kind of ironic that in Chile 83% of people don’t recycle but Chile has the largest coast in the world with a lot of visible plastic waste along the Chilean coast. What do you think about that?
0 Waste: There is a lack of knowledge of the responsibility each person has as a consumer and as a recycler, and how this impacts the environment. All of our actions have an impact. From the way we buy stuff to the way we interact with each other. 0 Waste believes we need to put more effort into solving this problem, the plastic problem. Really, any kind of pollution problem.
ThoughtsandThings: So you’re saying that people don’t understand that if they don’t recycle, they are polluting the ocean with plastic?
0 Waste: Yes. This is true if they are not recycling and they are not reducing their plastic consumption as well. Reducing is important. We can reduce our plastic consumption by thinking about if we really need that item, or if it’s going to have a negative impact on the environment or someone else.
ThoughtsandThings: What is the most important underlying issue behind the reason that so many people don’t recycle?
0 Waste: I think, and want to believe, that the main reason is that they don’t know about the impact of their actions. When in reality every small action makes a huge impact, if you add up every small action - it ends up being quite large. They have a, how do you say it? Out of sight, out of mind mentality. 0 Waste wants to change that by educating the people how their actions have an impact and help them make a positive impact on the environment.
"You vote with your money, and you’re either financing companies that have a huge positive or negative impact on the environment."
ThoughtsandThings: So...let’s get to the more uplifting part! How exactly can we be part of the solution? What can we do differently, with 0 Waste as our guide?
0 Waste: You can start by visiting our website as we need to have more traction on our platform in order to validate the product for our investors. You can also follow us on Instagram. We post educational content to our Instagram to spread awareness about recycling, and what happens when we don’t recycle. To start recycling, you can figure out where the nearest recycling point is to you by visiting our website as well. Another important action you can take is to raise more awareness within your inner circle and help them see the problem we are facing today. You can start recycling at home as well as reduce your consumption (for example reducing plastic consumption). Think twice before purchasing a product. Find out how the product is made. Ask yourself, if you buy it, can you recycle it again? That’s the biggest question you have to ask yourself. You vote with your money, and you’re either financing companies that have a huge positive or negative impact on the environment.
"Companies that care about their environmental impact will be very transparent in what they're doing. They will have a certification, post what they’re doing in statistics/facts, not vague ideas and concepts."
ThoughtsandThings: Something that happens a lot within businesses (and governments) is greenwashing. How can we tell if the company is really making a difference or if it’s all talk?
0 Waste: Great question. This happens a lot, unfortunately. Watch out for terms like eco-friendly, free, and green as well as ambiguous comments with a "green image". Companies that care about their environmental impact will be very transparent in what they're doing. They will have a certification, post what they’re doing in statistics/facts, not vague ideas and concepts. Certifications are important because they mean the company has to follow certain guidelines and regulations set by an outer party, not the company. Do some digging on the internet to make sure the certificate is not made by the same company. Some trusted certifications are Fair Trade, B Corporation among others. Last but not least, for clothing items make sure the entire item is recyclable, not just the label. In some cases, when the label says recyclable, it actually just means the label, not the entire garment. You can check this by looking at what fabrics the garment is made out of to see if they are recyclable.
ThoughtsandThings: I can’t end this interview without bringing up the COVID-19 Pandemic as it’s affected all areas of our lives. What do you have to say about the pandemic and recycling?
0 Waste: The COVID-19 Pandemic has shown the disparity in Chile (Santiago) as well as other parts of the world and we can see this in recycling as well. There are many differences between wealthier and poorer areas when it comes to waste management. What we’ve seen so far is that waste pollution happens on a daily basis in lower-income communities. It affects the people who live there and also the environment.
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