May 17, 2024 #ChileSustentable

Five cases of female innovation in the Chilean recycling industry

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On World Recycling Day, businesswomen and entrepreneurs from all over Chile tell how transforming waste into new products helps to conserve the environment and mitigate climate change.

Isla Bonita in Chiloé

Four craftswomen from Lemuy Island in Chiloé incorporate recycled plastic into traditional basketry and promote the circular economy. In this way, the Isla Bonita cooperative represents a solution to the difficulty of waste treatment on the island and illegal dumping on the beaches. "This allows us to grow as women, develop ourselves and show people that plastic waste can be put to other uses," explains artisan and recycler María Catelicán (35). 

"I learned to weave manila with my grandmother," says María, and "this vegetable fiber, typical of this area and used in baskets, we mix it with recycled plastic and make bread baskets and cup holders. According to the artisan, "when the neighbors see the products, they decide to deliver their waste because they trust that it will not go to a landfill; without a doubt, what we do has an impact on our community. 

Midas Chile urban mining 

Recycling valuable metals that are in electronic waste is what urban mining does. "We transform a waste, something that a producer must discard or is no longer useful in a house like a refrigerator or a washing machine, into a new resource," says Mitzy Lagos (42), Circular Economy manager at Midas Chile. She adds that the objective is "to avoid having to extract those same minerals from the earth, with the consequent ecological footprint".

The recycling plant processes 25 tons of waste per day. After disassembling the equipment, the metals are melted down to obtain copper, aluminum and bronze ingots, which are exported to China, Japan and the United States. Mitzy Lagos says that in recent years "we wanted to do more, so we started up two photovoltaic plants. We are the first in Chile to generate all our processes with clean energy".

The jewelry of Plástica 

Giving a new life to plastic bags in an innovative and artistic way is the goal of the jewelry company Plástica. According to Constanza Calderón (33), one of its partners, "it is gratifying to work on something that helps the environment and delivers a mobilizing message such as circularity".

For years Constanza's mother, a visual artist, worked with recycled plastics, until they decided to create a company and make jewelry. After collecting, sorting and cleaning the plastic, it is melted to work it andthen through goldsmithing it is joined to silver pieces to generate earrings and necklaces, most of them unique.

Desierto Vestido de Alto Hospicio 

Angela Astudillo (27), along with other young people, created the organization Desierto Vestido to make visible the contamination of textile waste in her area of Alto Hospicio. "The idea is to educate about the use of textile waste, for that we do workshops in schools, universities and public spaces. We teach how to transform unused garments into new products and we talk about the impact that this waste generates in our environment". They also collaborate in activities, the last one being the Atacama Fashion Week, where they held a fashion show in one of the largest landfills in the commune. 

Angela also has a textile transformation business, Refiortex, which allowed her to pay for her law degree. Although she has already graduated from university, she will continue working on it and will not stop raising awareness of the need to reuse the "mountains" of used clothing discarded in the Chilean desert.

Fabric made from plastic bottles

With Botela, Paula Madero (38) and her partner Arturo Vial created a business where consumption is conscious and responsible. They manufacture backpacks, travel bags, shoulder bags and T-shirts with fabrics made from plastic bottles. "We buy the blank fabric from companies that recycle it in China or the United States, and we print and manufacture it in Chile. Each product has a logo indicating how many pet bottles were used; a banana requires 3 and a backpack requires 22 half-liter bottles".

"The idea is that our product lasts, so we work with high quality standards," Paula explains. But, if the product breaks "we fix it at no cost, because we encourage not to buy again if it can be repaired".



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