Empowering Changemakers

Recycling plastic waste in the Colombian Amazon

Project summary

In order to tackle the vast accumulation of plastic waste near the Amazon forest and river in Leticia, the main city in the Colombian Amazon, OneAction is promoting the construction of a processing plant that will transform plastic waste into « plastic wood ».

This processing facility will participate in preserving local ecosystems by addressing, on the one hand, environmental contamination due to the accumulation of plastic waste and, on the other hand, deforestation linked to the expansion of landfills and the extensive use of noble wood as a building material. In parallel, this project will respond to the housing crisis and provide a sustainable and steady livelihood for the recyclers, one of the most vulnerable sectors of Leticia's society. 

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Économie durable, Éducation, Empowerment, Environnement

Project duration




About 750,000 CHF


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.

Our partner

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.

The project

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.

Expected results

  • 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.

Local coordinators   adriana bueno

"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.