Recycling plastic waste in the Colombian Amazon
Hábitat Sur and OneAction aim to tackle the vast negative impacts of plastic waste accumulation in the water and forest ecosystems in the heart of the Columbian Amazon, in Leticia, the region's principal city. The project will build and operate a not-for-profit, solar-operated facility that transforms plastic waste into 'plastic wood', providing the region with a sustainable alternative to tree wood (often imported and endangered) as a building material.
This self-sustaining plant will contribute to the preservation of local ecosystems, by removing the accumulation of harmful plastic waste, and reducing current, unsustainable rates of deforestation for waste landfills sites and noble timber. The project will improve community infrastructure, responding to the current housing crisis, and provide a sustainable and reliable livelihood for the recyclers, one of Leticia's most vulnerable communities.
Économie durable, Éducation, Empowerment, Environnement
In Colombia, and like in most countries in Latin America, proper recycling systems are inexistent: of the 7,500 tonnes in waste generated per year in Colombia, only 17% are adequately recycled. The poor management of waste and especially plastic waste led to various issues, from the plastic waste contamination of nearby river and soil - hence threatening numerous species and the livelihood of the local population - to poor working and living conditions for recyclers.
OneAction is mainly collaborating with Hábitat Sur, a local Colombian NGO, who will own, set up and manage the facility.
In addition, to guarantee the distribution and use of the plastic wood, OneAction will also partner with two trustworthy building and retailing Colombian companies founded by the same family as Hábitat Sur: Constructora La Conciencia and Distribuidora La Confianza. The two companies are committed to promoting the 'plastic wood' as a sustainable and cheaper alternative to wood and other imported materials.
Based on the successful model developed by the foundation Llena Una Botella de Amor and the company Econciencia in Medellin, Hábitat Sur and OneAction are planning to build a processing facility designed to transform plastic waste into “plastic wood”. This would represent an effective way to cut the volume of waste in nature and thereby an adequate means to reduce deforestation practices.
The project is designed as an ecological and circular business model, illustrating the benefits of being self-sufficient and revenue-generating as well as ecologically friendly. It will not only involve the local communities at the beginning of the value chain - through awareness-raising campaigns - but they will also benefit from the final product and the recycling plant's profits. Indeed, the profits generated will all go to social, cultural and environmental projects promoted by Hábitat Sur in the area.
By improving the waste management in Leticia, one important goal is also to enhance the living and working conditions of the recyclers by providing a source of steady income. In the long term, Hábitat Sur aims to facilitate the establishment of a recyclers' cooperative to enable them to exert more influence in negotiations with the authorities.
- Better recycling practices within the community and the reduction of plastic waste in nature.
- Curbing the proliferation of landfills, hence reduction of deforestation practices.
- Over the years, plastic wood gradually replaced wood as a construction material.
- Recyclers are increasingly organized and better and more regularly paid.
- The plant is self-sufficient as of its second year of activity, and OneAction can disengage;
- The expected additional revenues will be spent to improve, enlarge the factory and target new markets as well as to fund Hábitat Sur's cultural initiatives.
"We have been dreaming for a long time of a solution for some of the most pressing issues affecting the Amazon nowadays: deforestation, plastic pollution and poor housing infrastructure. This project tackles all of these issues with a viable, cost-effective and sustainable solution that will have a long-lasting positive impact in the region".
Some facts and figures about the project
- 20,000 people participate in the awareness campaigns and learn about how to sort their waste.
- 25,000 persons - more than half of the population of Leticia that is currently lacking proper housing - will benefit from the possibility of buying this cheaper and sustainable alternative to wood to build their houses.
- More than 112,500 people will benefit from the protection of the Amazon ecosystem, hence safeguarding its livelihood.
- 16 jobs are created as part of the plant staff.
- 50 recyclers will have the possibility to sell the plastic waste they collect to the plant.
- 22,5 tonnes of plastic waste are processed per month
- 20% of the wood in construction material is replaced by plastic wood over 5 years.
- 10% of construction material is plastic wood after 5 years of existence.