Diverse scientific investigations indicate poor waste management throughout Latin America, the overuse of pesticides, deforestation, and increased agricultural monoculture. In many places the ecocides are multiple and cloud our vision, but It is necessary to see what is generating life and hope from the collective and the common. Examples of this are the circular economy being practiced in Bolivia and what various companies are doing in Peru by recycling their materials.
Replacing the linear process of extraction, the circular economy uses and disposes of resources in a way that preserves material and natural wealth. This innovative economic model is already beginning to bear fruit. Thus, global economic development is decoupled from the consumption of finite resources by opting for the reuse or extension of the life cycle of raw materials. Many companies, cooperatives, projects, and institutions in the world are implementing these ideas through a model that seeks to minimize waste and establish synergies between production cycles. While the linear economy is produce-use-throw, the circular economy is produce-use-recycle. The benefits of the circular economy are: reducing production costs by reusing resources, reducing the risk of fluctuation in the price of raw materials, reducing the price to consumers, creating jobs in the waste management industry, and generating spaces for entrepreneurship.
In Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and other Latin American countries are many beautiful circular economy projects. For example, in Peru the renowned Panchita restaurant converts food leftovers into fuel. Transforming waste into fuel for trucks generates “a positive impact on the environment,” said the spokesman for Together for the Environment. The Pura Vida Association in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, and also various communities in Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia are using PET bottles in building materials, so they don’t end up in rivers and seas.
The Peruvian energy solutions company ETNA has invested in a process to convert unusable batteries into new batteries. Their processing plant also prevents pollution by converting effluent into water usable for irrigating green areas. Another organization, Las Traperas, promotes social entrepreneurship through collaborative consumption—reusing and recycling clothes and objects. This company gives clothing a second life and allows the customer to pay up to 50 percent of the price of the garments with other second-hand products.
At present, the overall economy is stuck in a system in which everything seems to favor the linear model of production-consumption-waste. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls us to Good Living—respecting the cycles and processes of Mother Earth and understanding that we all are interdependent beings. All ecosystems are related. We are all One. We can coexist with all God’s Creation and respect Mother Earth by promoting a circular economy that takes care of, honors, protects, and loves “our Common House.”
*Translated and condensed from “Economía Circular, Una Práctica del Buen Vivir,” which appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of No Tan Lejos del Horizonte.