In the circular economy, nothing is lost – everything is transformed

On the busiest corners of the main avenues of Santo Domingo there are yellow bins where citizens can deposit used bottles of water and other products, which are made of PET material. This is the New Life for Waste (Nuvi) project.

This initiative is the most significant recycling effort in the private sector, in which around 20 companies have joined forces to promote a circular economy model, which consists of collecting the aforementioned material, a type of plastic widely used in the manufacture of beverage and textile containers, and then recycling it.

Although this trend has been talked about in the country for more than a decade, it has been with the enactment, last October, of Law 225-20 or General Law on Integral Management and Co-processing of Solid Waste, that the governmental and also business intention to transform the current production model has gained more strength, since the bases of a legal framework are finally laid that points the way to follow to reach the purpose of an integral management of waste.

However, the entry into force of this law is not enough. The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources has yet to draft the regulations that will really make operational the aspects that govern this law, which establishes that within three years the separation of waste at the source of origin will be mandatory, while at the same time it orders producers to establish mechanisms to remove the waste they take to the market through the products they sell.

At last November’s session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the executive secretary of that body, Alicia Bárcena, said that the circular economy will be one of the main axes of a new style of development for the post-Covid-19 economic reactivation, in addition to sustainable tourism, a new energy matrix, urban electromobility, the digital revolution, the health manufacturing industry and the bioeconomy.

The shift towards this mode of operation is a movement that has spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and has garnered the support of various international organizations. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for example, is among a group of leading organizations that have just launched a coalition to support the region in the transition.

This coalition aims to put these principles into practice through collaborative work between governments, business and society as a whole. It will be headed by a steering committee composed of four high-level government representatives, who will rotate in this role, starting with Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and the Dominican Republic for the period 2021-2022.

Meanwhile, in the mid-island, the private sector is moving forward with projects such as Nuvi, led by the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic (AIRD). There are also other particular initiatives of large companies, such as Recicla 100+, of Cervecería Nacional Dominicana, which since it began in 2019 has collected about 1,450 tons of PET waste, but has the goal of reaching more than 5,440 a year. Also on the list is Mundo sin Residuos, from Coca-Cola bottler Bepensa Dominicana, which has a mission to collect all of its containers by 2030.

To this we must add that small independent ventures have also emerged that likewise seek to take advantage of waste to change the linear economy that currently dominates, for a circular one, in which everything is taken advantage of and nothing is wasted.

“It’s not easy. For the circular economy to be truly effective, it requires not only the will, but also the agreement of the business sector, because there is no point in working on a business model in isolation when the entire chain remains linear. This implies that you have to involve alliances not only at the private level but also at the public-private level,” says Circe Almánzar, executive vice-president of the AIRD.

She also points out that the circular economy goes beyond an environmental approach and considers that it should also be seen as a source of job creation.

Despite the fact that industrialists have taken important steps to push this type of economic model, the truth is that without government collaboration they will not get very far, concludes the III International Forum on Circular Economy held in February.

“The State must accompany the industrialists in innovation, in technology, to achieve a change in the productive matrix; this also requires the search for new materials and training of talents, which means investing resources”, said Jesús Salazar Nishi, president of the Plastics Committee of the National Society of Industries of Peru, when participating in the event that brought together businessmen and ministers from Latin American countries, including officials from the Dominican Republic.

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