Recycling, solar energy and other programs change the face of Santiago

Districts around the capital are keeping up with the global trends toward sustainability and have recently shown exciting new environmental initiatives.


From a composting center in working-class barrio La Pintana to a state-of-the-art Recycling center in the wealthy northeastern suburb of Vitacura, municipal governments around the city are developing new ways of supporting environmentally conscientious practices.

The oldest green project in Santiago is in the rural, southwestern district of La Pintana. A compost center is used within the neighbourhood to cultivate green spaces. La Pintana has been maintaining its compost center for 15 years, well before recycling and alternative energy projects caught on elsewhere in the city.

In the wealthy northeastern suburbs where the river meets the mountains, municipal recycling programs have taken hold more recently, but are reaching a far greater portion of the city’s population. The largest location for recycling in Santiago is Vitacura’s Punto Limpio. The center has areas for glass, aluminum and paper recycling as well as areas to safely deposit items that are dangerous for the environment like batteries and unused medications. In 2006, the first year after its opening, the Punto Limpio centre gathered about 140,000 kilos of recyclable materials. In 2009 that number increased to well over 1 million kilos.

According to a report in El Mercurio, a team of ten environmental experts are now working with local government in Vitacura to transform the district into Santiago’s green center. The initial goal is to develop alternative energy sources for municipal buildings before extending these technologies to residential zones as well.  The same report notes that the district of Nuñoa recently gained the approval from the regional government for an addition of 756 recycling bins to serve 30,000 residents.

After the success of the Punto Limpio in Vitacura, the district of Lo Barnechea due east at the foot of the Andes, has announced plans to build another Punto Limpio. The municipal government of Lo Barnechea predicts the 4,000 sq. meter facility will be completed sometime between March and April of 2011. Estimates suggest the center will process around 200 tons of trash in its first year.

The southwestern district of Maipú is home to Santiago’s only Ecobarrio–a community within the district committed to maintaining a green, sustainable lifestyle. The community in an area of Maipú called la Villa Cuatro Álamos plants vacant plots of land with fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants.

These projects along with the recent organization of the National Movement of Recyclers have begun Santiago’s transformation into a greener city. Enthusiastic reception of environmental events and initiatives around the country indicate that the entire nation has embarked on its journey toward a more sustainable future.