Ecuador, Separation of waste at source

By Lucie Pecinkova

Separation of waste at source

The city of Puyo has decided to become “greener”, more environmentally friendly, and make a step towards an improvement in their waste management system. If you want to improve anything, it is good to start from the beginning, from the source. And this is true also in the case of waste management system. The basic step that will make handling of waste much easier and more effective is to segregate waste at the source, in our households. If we mix in the bin wet waste from the kitchen, together with newspapers, carton boxes or plastic bottles, all these different fractions, that have potential value get depreciated and become just a waste. Why is that so? If you have a carboard or paper, that is clean and dry, you can recycle it to new paper products, such as newspapers for example. A clean plastic bottle can be turned into recycled plastic bench, or synthetic clothes. And organic material from our kitchen will become a fertile compost for our garden, just in few months. Separately, each of these fractions have a value – environmental and also economic value, that can be received from recycling. However, if you mix these different materials from the begging, they get contaminated, they lose their potential to be recycled, they lose their value, and become just a waste. Apart from that, treatment of waste when it is brought to a landfill or an incinerator is not free, but it costs lot of money. Thus, the bigger volume of untreated, mixed waste we produce, the bigger economic burden we create for our local municipality.

This is why the municipality in Puyo decided to apply the system of segregation of waste at household level, and also separate collection. And the EU Aid volunteers who came to support the project “Pastaza Recicla” are here to help out! In cooperation with the municipality and also about 80 environmental students from the local university we have been coordinating socialization program since January 2018. The students go door to door in each of the neighborhood in Puyo, and explain to every family, how does the new waste collection system work. They lay out that there are 3 different fractions to be separated – organic waste, dry non-organic waste that can be recycled, and the non-recyclable waste. Also, they explain when are the collecting days for each of these materials. Since January till August we have visited around 7,000 households in 16 out of 20 neighborhoods.

Any change of social behavior is however a slow process. It would be silly to expect, that it is enough to explain one day how to recycle, and the next day all the citizens would follow it correctly. Any behavioral changes are slow, and take lot of effort. The estimation is, that currently only about 10% of the population submit their waste separated correctly. This number needs to increase! So, to support this effort, our communication team just started with educational campaigns at local schools and also will try to reach people through campaigns organized in coordination with church associations. It is also very important that there is an existing legislation that defines it as an obligation of every citizen, to recycle their waste. The municipality prepares a so called follow up system, where an appointed inspector, will have the responsibility to check if households do follow this regulation. He has the right to check the bags, and in case that the waste is not separated correctly, he can notify and fine the particular citizen. Our expectations and hopes are, that within 5 of years, 80-90% of the population in Puyo will separate their waste well.