Some months ago, during the International Conference on Waste Minimization and Recycling of the International Solid Waste Management Association (ISWA) in Buenos Aires, the IDB and the FEMSA Foundation awarded the Water and Sanitation Prize for Latin America and the Caribbean in the category of Solid Waste Management to the La Pintana Municipality of Santiago, Chile, for its strategy of source separation, selective collection, and treatment.
During November, in an IDB seminar in Mexico, I met Gustavo and sharing I learnt more about the La Pintana project and asked him to write about it. This is what Gustavo has prepared – thanks a lot Gustavo for this contribution, I really appreciate it and I think La Pintana serves as a good example of realistic solutions for transition countries and medium size municipalities.
"Through this project, which was developed in the framework of Local Agenda 21, in response to the challenges posed by the Kyoto Protocol, of which Chile is a signatory, so that cities will face the challenges of socio-environmental in the present century, the Municipality of La Pintana, located south of the metropolitan region, in Santiago de Chile, with 201.178 inhabitants, has been encouraging in the Commune willingness to take charge of the integrated waste management, treating directly the fraction of vegetables residues eliminating the disposal of them in the landfill, producing significant savings for the municipal budget, not only the disposal in the landfill, the Municipality also paved the way for implementing treatment facilities for these wastes, promoting recovery and treatment of them through composting and vermiculture.
The old department for Cleaning and Ornament in the municipality was transformed in the Directorate for Environment Management (DEM), This Directorate have today four units, Green areas, Environment Health, Environmental Operations and Environmental Education. To do more effective it work The DEM has divided the commune in five operative sectors, where the four units have representation like a little (mini) DEM. Through them the DEM performed their activities for Local Environment Management (GAL for their acronym in Spanish)
The DEM did en 2003 a characterization for their Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). The DEM established that the most important fraction in the MSW in La Pintana was the vegetable fraction, (more of 56% in the summer), with this reality the DEM took the resolution to do an effort to work with those waste and gave them a value, started a program when the community must separated the vegetable waste in their houses (separation at source) and give them to truck that collect this fraction. The wastes are transported to the treatment plant built at the commune center, where the wastes are treated trough composting and a reduction treatment with the Californian’s red worm (Eisenia Foetida).
The above mentioned treatments generate two high value products, the composting and humus. These products are handled by the municipal plant nursery, used as tree, shrubbery, plant and flowers substratum, that come back to the commune in green areas, grounds parks, so improving the life quality of the people living in La Pintana.
The mainly actors especially in this program are the inhabitants of La Pintana, without them the program can not have a real sense. At the first time was necessary to sensitize the people of La Pintana. Explained to families, the scope of the program how to sort and deliver the vegetal fraction. Together with this work the DEM has develop an educational program free of charge for the inhabitants of the commune, this has developed a strengthened the relationship between the municipality and community. These processes easy can be replicated by any other municipality.
The sensitization reach initially around 17.000 families, In 2010 the DEM in an additional effort reached contact with other 20.000 families this gave a total of 37.000 families and this represent the 82,2% of the total inhabitants in the Commune.
As a result of this communal program the Directorate for Environmental Management can treat around the 30% of the total vegetable waste of La Pintana in their own plant for composting and vermiculture. This process has aided the commune to obtain very easy, the middle environmental certification of the Chilean ministry for environment. The commune has become a pioneer in their program for Local Environmental Management in a national level. The contribution of the DEM to a sustainable development is reflected not only in saving cost to the municipal budget generated from the process for the separation at source and their treatment as described above, but especially in a greater contribution to a better environment in Chile.
How the saving cost generated from the Directorate of Environmental Management activities, are transferred to the Social development in La Pintana?. The municipality has a sport stadium, with 22 sport schools; the young through the sport have the opportunity to avoid the drugs and delinquency. In a commune with high conflict and social problems (La Pintana is considered a homogeneously poor commune) can said that thanks to DEM work, La Pintana have a South American champion in athletics disciplines. This has been generated by the virtuous circle of the sustainable development. Environmental work, generate economy for the municipal budget, this cost saving are transferred to the Social development of the inhabitants of La Pintana.
The precious work of the 120 people that work at the DEM, and their contribution to a commune with scarce resources, has been awarded with several national an international awards, for example, the award from “The Peace House” in 2009. “The AVONNI 2010” (Avonni is backwards innovation in Spanish) where the DEM participate together with other 550 projects for this national award. La Pintana won with their project “Transformation of waste cooking oil in biodiesel”. In 2011 the prize granted by the IBD-FEMSA organizations, obtained the award for the good practices in Solid Waste Management. The results that the Directorate for the Environmental Management has obtained can be summarized in the following achievements:
• Diminishing of the waste volume transported to the landfill.
• Make a significant cost saving to the municipal budget.
• Change the common leave earth as substrate for a high quality composting, that bring real nutrients to the soil.
• Reuse the pruning’s remains in a creative way for the elaboration of composting.
• Minimize the loud and smog contamination, due to less trucks circulation to the landfill.
• Sensitize the community about the need to minimize the household waste
• Diminishing of the greenhouse gases, due to less transport and the use of biodiesel, because the maximum distance from each point of the commune to the treatment plant is only 1 kilometer. Compared with disposal of waste in the landfill distant 12 kilometers away from La Pintana.
Gustavo González A.
Manager of the treatment plant for SW.
Directorate for Environmental Management.
Municipality La Pintana. Santiago-Chile."
For more see the video and the article - the video is in Spanish as well as the official press release