Recycling organization inspires change in Chile

Gaining recognition for its members, and promoting awareness of environmental issues, the National Recyclers’ Movement (MNRCH) is helping to create new opportunities for responsible waste disposal in Santiago and around the country. 

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Chile’s National Movement of Recyclers estimates that one recycler can collect between two and 15 tons of recyclables each month, roughly the amount of waste generated by 500 Santiaguinos. According to these statistics, recyclers are responsible for collecting about 66% of all recycled materials in Chile.

Collecting over half of all materials recycled in Chile, the recyclers have saved approximately US$24 million annually for municipalities, by sparing them the cost of funding recycling programs.

A formal statement of goals and aims was set forth at the movement’s second meeting in 2008 with the creation of an official Declaration. “Recycling is a dignified profession, just and valuable for society and the key to efficient waste management and sustainable development,” the document states. This is certainly the view held by recyclers themselves. “This is their job,” says Jose Aviles Caroca, President of the MNRCH’s Maipú branch, “and they respect it like a job.”

Over 400 recyclers and supporters gathered at this year’s meeting in Santiago, including representatives from affiliated organizations in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. “All of our meetings have had great results,” says Nicolas Estay, who has been working with the MNRCH since the beginning, “We have the enthusiasm and the force of knowing that the work we do will be noticed and recognized.”

The effects of organization are now being felt on a broader scale. “We are getting more recognition now because people are more conscious of what we do,” Estay says. This recognition has resulted in programs working with local governments in various municipalities, particularly those within Santiago.

The work is part of a plan with the Santiago Metropolitan Region to recover 25% of residual domestic waste in the city by 2020. The MNRCH hopes that this plan will include the creation of recycling locations in each of Santiago’s municipalities.

The MNRCH hopes to embark on initiatives on a national and international level with State support and recognition. Mr. Aviles hopes that the organization will remain at the forefront of new efforts, continuing its current work with improved infrastructure to meet the increasing demands of a more environmentally savvy public.

On the international level, the MNRCH hopes to strengthen connections with other recycling movements in Latin America in order to share successes and experiences to increase efficiency and working conditions for recyclers throughout the region.

Extraordinary strides have been taken in the last three years alone by the MNRCH and the people of Chile who are eagerly participating in new recycling programs. Change never happens all at once, but men and women like Mr. Aviles are hopeful. “One little grain, and another and another,” he says, “make a hill of sand.