Swisscontact has been working on solid waste management for more than 20 years and promotes solutions to make sustainable and efficient use of resources. In the prevalent linear economy, raw materials are made into products, which are discarded at the end of their life stage. In a Circular Economy, waste is prevented in the first place by reusing most parts of thrown-away products. For example, through a recycling process, rubber, steel and textile are extracted from end-of-life tires to manufacture new products such as mats and shoe soles. In the Markets for Recycling project, Swisscontact applies a Circular Economy approach to strengthen green business ecosystems in Bolivia.
In Latin America, 90% of solid waste is discarded and only 10% is reused (UN 2018). To move towards a Circular Economy, new business models are needed.
Thus, Green Businesses offer goods or services in waste recycling, water, energy, or urban mobility, among others. They operate environmentally friendly and incorporate good social and economic practices. In Bolivia, Swisscontact promotes an entrepreneurial ecosystem for Green Businesses, which includes micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Green enterprises can access training, technology, financing, and research and innovation, managing to increase their income and create jobs. Through its partners, Markets for Recycling promotes improvements in the value chain of waste from the transport sector (used tires, batteries, and scrap) supporting 22 Green Businesses. So far, 28 green jobs have been created or maintained with the support of the project.
For example, Batebol and Commetal are benchmark companies in the circular economy in Bolivia that recycle and produce new batteries. Commetal closes a production cycle based on a circular model, by which waste becomes raw material for new products. From the disused batteries, they extract recycled plastic and refined lead, and produce automotive, solar and backup energy batteries. By controlling the final disposal of batteries, they contribute to reducing the adverse effects on the environment and mitigating climate change.
In October, the country’s three most notable Chambers of Commerce and Industry organised the first International Symposium on Green Business and Circular Economy, supported by Swisscontact. Its goal was to promote the exchange of knowledge related to institutional, environmental, technological, socio-economic, and innovation aspects for the revitalisation of the green business market towards a Circular Economy. Municipal, departmental and national authorities, entrepreneurs, the academia and civil society were able to learn about the circular economy and hear concrete examples from Latin America. In addition, a Green Business Fair was held to create business opportunities for large, medium, small and micro-enterprises that promote sustainable development by reducing the water and carbon footprint in their different production processes.
“Great to see all the potential of the Green Businesses. The Green Business Fair caught my attention, which has a range of project options in electronic waste, tyres and batteries. I believe that Bolivia can generate employment and development opportunities from the circular economy.”
"More than ever, we need to move towards a new economy that is restorative and regenerative by design. This type of exchange makes it possible to connect and empower new green business initiatives associated with new circular business models from the point of view of recycling."
In 2022, Swisscontact supported a range of recycling initiatives in the three main cities of Bolivia where the project is working (La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz). One of these campaigns was called RECICLATON to raise awareness of proper waste management among businesses and the local population in La Paz. The campaign was organised and carried out by the Ministry of Environment and Water, local government actors, the Faculty of Engineering of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés and Kiosco Verde – a waste management mediation platform of the National Chamber of Industries (CNI). Collection points were set up on the properties of participating companies and institutions in the municipalities of La Paz, El Alto, Viacha. These collection points allowed companies and the general public to adequately store special and hazardous waste such as scrap metal, tyres and used lead acid batteries until the recycling operators picked it up. The campaign doubled its target and achieved 212 tons of collected waste, which included used tyres, lead batteries, metal scrap, and electrical and electronic equipment.
Waste that is not disposed of properly not only damages the environment but can also be harmful to the health of the population. The aim of the campaign RECICLAMOVIL is not only to reduce the amount of waste in the city but also to strengthen recycling companies and green businesses. Once a month, trucks drive through different areas of La Paz so that residents can conveniently get rid of their waste such as discarded printers, monitors, and mobile phones. Lead-acid batteries, PET bottles, scrap metal and used tyres are also deposited in mobile containers. The waste is then collected by the recycling companies Live SRL and REEcicla for environmentally friendly final disposal. Within two days in 2022, a total of 2.7 tonnes were collected. The recycling tours were coordinated by the National Chamber of Industry and Kiosco Verde with the support of Swisscontact.
This project is financed by the Republique et Canton de Genève, the Esperanza Foundation, and the Foundation for the Third Millennium, among other donors. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).