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Minister of Environment: “We trust that the experience of Eurochile will be a contribution to the development of the Roadmap for the Circular Economy”

In this interview for the Foundation, the Minister for the Environment, Carolina Schmidt, talks about how this paradigm shift will be implemented, the ambitious goals that are on the table, the expected impacts and the role that Eurochile will have in this transition from an economy linear to a circular economy.

Publicado el 05/06/2020

On May 6, the Ministry of the Environment formally began the work of the Strategic Committee for the elaboration of the Circular Economy Roadmap, an initiative that is led by the Eurochile Business Foundation and which aims to implement this global trend in the country between now and 2040.

Today, with the new scenario, the circular economy is also seen as an opportunity – and a key tool – for a sustainable recovery from the crisis caused by the COVID-19, through a change in the way of producing and consuming many of high-demand products to advance towards a sustainable development of the country, accompanied by the generation of new “green” jobs.

In an interview with Eurochile, the Minister of Environment, Carolina Schmidt, talks about how this paradigm shift will be implemented, the ambitious goals that are on the table, the expected impacts and the role that the Foundation will have in this transition from a linear economy to a circular economy.

What is the main objective of the ministry initiating the process to develop the Roadmap for the Circular Economy in Chile?

The transition from a linear to a circular economy means a paradigm change, and requires a huge transformation in our ways of producing and consuming. That is why we decided to lead the construction of a road map, inviting a transversal group of organizations to help us define specific goals and objectives to make Chile a circular country. In this context, the Road Map has five main objectives. First, connect the key actors for the development of the circular economy in the country; imagine what the future “Circular Chile” will look like year 2040; agree on the great changes that must take place to achieve this envisioning; design the strategy and action plan that will lead us to this “Circular Chile” and, finally, highlight the issue of the circular economy in the country.

What will be the role that the circular economy will have, in your opinion, in the future development of the country and, in particular, in the scenarios that open up after the impact of the pandemic in Chile?

Promoting and boosting the circular economy will be one of the best ways to ensure that economic recovery, once the coronavirus health crisis is over, is green and sustainable. After the pandemic, countries will need to grow, but we must do it through this new paradigm, transforming our ways of producing and consuming, which will result in the generation of more green jobs.

Why is it important to join this trend today, which is not yet consolidated at a global level and is just beginning to be implemented in Europe, for example?

Installing the circular economy is a necessity for the world; this approach reduces the extraction of natural resources, energy savings and the reduction of greenhouse gases, responsible for climate change. In Chile we have taken important steps such as, for example, the law that prohibited the delivery of plastic bags in commerce and the implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility Law (EPR Law) that will allow us to take a leap in the area of ​​waste recovery , which will equal us with developed countries. But, without a doubt, the beginning of the Circular Economy Roadmap, which we will develop together with all the actors, will create a shared envision of what that circular Chile looks like in 2040, and will allow us to generate a definite action plan that transcends in different governments.

Recently, actors from different areas of the country were called to collaborate in the elaboration of this Road Map. What will be their role? What role will companies, academia, NGOs, citizens have in the development of this work?

The process of preparing the roadmap, which is divided into the phases of diagnosis, definition of the envisioning, design of the road map, and dissemination, is led by an Executive Committee in which representatives of different entities participate: Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Economy, CORFO and ASCC, with the support of the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) and Eurochile Foundation.

In addition to the Executive Committee, the governance of the process includes the participation of a Strategic Committee and an International Advisory Committee. The work of the Strategic Committee will focus on the envisioning definition and roadmap design phases, actively participating in the workshops that will be carried out in these phases, and working in the role of validating the results obtained. The role of the International Advisory Committee will have a consultative approach. Experts on different topics, representatives of regions, and citizens will also participate in the process.

It starts with an ambitious goal: by 2040 only 10% of the waste will reach the sanitary landfill. It is the same goal that Europe is setting today. Is it really feasible to achieve, how?

Regarding waste management, the Ministry of the Environment proposed to the Strategic Committee the goal that by 2040, a maximum of 10% of household waste be sent to a sanitary landfill (today it is 96%), and at least 65% of the household waste generated in the country are recycled. These are the goals that the European Union has set for the lagging regions (the most advanced countries must reach the same level five years before, by 2035). This is an extremely ambitious goal as a country. It means giving ourselves a space of two decades to catch up with Europe in an area in which we are lagging country today (we are the last OECD country, along with Turkey, in terms of less use of waste). Concluded this, Chile has, in other areas, achieved ambitious goals and caught up with or even exceeded developed countries. Our country is a world leader in water sanitation, which was achieved in two decades, and we believe that we can achieve it in terms of the circular economy.

It was also decided to advance in transversal objectives. What will be the main guidelines in this matter?

The Roadmap will be structured in four main pillars and each one of them will have goals and objectives in the short, medium and long term. These lines are: Obtaining raw materials; Production; Consumption and services; Waste management.

As I pointed out previously, in terms of waste management, we proposed the goal that by 2040, at most, 10% of household waste be sent to a sanitary landfill, and that at least 65% of household waste is recycled. For the other pillars, such tangible and ambitious goals will also be built.

How will the work for the elaboration of the Roadmap continue, and what will be the deadlines for the final proposals?

The Road Map will be one of the work priorities of the Ministry of the Environment, it is part of the commitments of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC); the draft will be ready in six months and will be submitted to public consultation.

Eurochile is in charge of elaboration the Roadmap. What advantages do you see in the foundation’s work and its connections with European experts in this area, for the success of developing this project? What are the advantages of having European experience in this area?

Eurochile was awarded the tender that was opened in 2019 to support the most intense phase of the work; its work began in March 2020 and its mission is to lead the development of the process and generate the final document with the road map. We trust that Eurochile`s experience will be a contribution to the development of this instrument.