Low-income community in Chile proves to be an example in sustainability

Recycling 19% of organic matter, La Pintana grows greener 

La Pintana, a low-income neighborhood in Santiago, is receiving accolades as a shining example in sustainable development. The municipality recycles over 19% of its waste, turning branches and fallen trees into chips and furniture, and organic residue into valuable compost.
With the help of millions of worms, organic matter is constantly decomposed. From 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of compost, 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms) of valuable fertilizer is born. Using this method, it is possible to reduce over 90% of the waste.
This compost is then used to maintain the green areas of the municipality – a double plus for La Pintana.
Manuel Valencia, director of the municipal office said the idea for the project sprang from the economics of the community.
“We reduce waste, but we don’t do it because we’re creative, we do it because of need,” he explained to journalist Juan Pablo Garnham from Qué Pasa.
Essentially, it is important to remember that every neighborhood – regardless of income – is part of the same ecosystem. If La Pintana found a way out of necessity, other neighborhoods should be pay attention! Because their model works.
Early Stages
A decade ago, in La Pintana a group of residents decided to experiment. They emptied the collected garbage and analyzed the contents.
When they sorted through the waste and found that over half was organic matter, a proposal was born! The task then was to search for an option that could give life to a relevant, simple project that wouldn’t pose significant inconvenience to the population.
This was essential, and the community’s acceptance of the idea was just as important as any other part in the process. Therefore, the second step in La Pintana was to get closer to the population – an effort that continues to this day.
Municipality employees periodically go door to door informing the neighbors about the system, including  giving them a list explaining what is considered organic and what isn’t. Comprehensive education has successfully gotten 28% of their organic material to their worm compost – an impressive figure and one from which the rest of Santiago could benefit.
“This is all simple and cheap. What you need is to have the will and the disposition to do it,” Ricardo Irarrázabal, Subsecretary of the Environmental Agency, said.
La Pintana proves that not only is it possible to create sustainable projects in low-income neighborhoods, but that also to provide a valuable example for the rest of the country.