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Looking into the ‘black bag’ and learning to face up to our waste

In the second of a six-part blog series supported by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, Co-author of Leave No Trace, Julia Luchesi, talks about the importance of reframing our relationship with waste. It showcases how one social enterprise is working in challenging, high plastic-leakage environments to solve difficult and universal questions on building robust waste and recycling systems.

““TriCiclos—and its experience with its Punto Limpio program—helps us face this challenge by tearing open the black bag, leaving us face-to-face with what we are a part of, and at the same time, teaching us to be truly accountable.””

It was a sunny Saturday. Even with the windows closed, I could feel it was going to be a hot day. I woke up excited.

I was in Santiago, Chile, and it was an unconventional morning, the day I was finally going to see one of TriCiclos’ Collection Points (Punto Limpio) after five years of working with them.

The first time I heard about TriCiclos, my heart rate accelerated. A small Chilean company fast expanding across Latin America working to create a world free from waste. The scale of the work and progress in building circular economic frameworks was impressive.

On that Saturday morning, I quickly got ready, then waited a few minutes for one of my colleagues at TriCiclos Chile to arrive.

Unlike the city of São Paulo in Brazil (where I live today), Santiago is a small and easily accessible municipality, which meant we were quickly at the desired location.

We parked the car at one of Sodimac’s largest stores in the city. The company is one of the main retailers of home and construction products in South America. TriCiclos has been partners with them since 2010 (when we installed our first Collection Point in Chile).

We walked a few meters to the store’s Punto Limpio, which is the size of a large container. It has 15 windows, with signage indicating which is the correct place for different materials (plastics, paper, glass, aluminium, etc.). It functions as a small-scale recycling centre.

What soon became apparent was the number of people turning up eagerly opening their black bags, and carefully selecting the correct packaging and place to dispose of it.

Some were even familiar with the high-density polyethylene packaging and polypropylene packaging. For those who were uncertain, TriCiclos agents were on hand to provide guidance.

More and more people arrived. Families with children, elderly people, young adults—a full mix of generations.

It felt like I was witnessing a cultural experience. It seemed that a visit to this Punto Limpio was a weekend ritual for all of these people. They valued the experience and realised the importance of their actions.

By facing our waste and looking inside the black bag—a term we use at TriCiclos—we’re able to reframe our relationship with consumption and what it leaves behind.

It is of fundamental importance to understand that the black bag does not magically disappear from our homes. There is a whole apparatus of different actors that allows it to first be collected, then sent to the correct destination.

By acknowledging the amount of waste that we generate, we connect with an aspect of our behaviour that is usually hidden.

It’s a move away from being unaware of the amount of waste we generate—something we often prefer because we want to ignore our part in the global pollution problem.

TriCiclos—and its experience with its Punto Limpio program—helps us face this challenge by tearing open the black bag, leaving us face-to-face with what we are a part of, and at the same time,  teaching us to be truly  accountable.

Would you like to know more about About TriCiclos?

Inspired by the desire to do more for the world, in addition to large experience in the private sector, the friends Gonzalo Muñoz and Joaquín Arnolds Reyes solved to change the relationship of society with waste.

In 2009, Manuel Díaz joined the team and they founded TriCiclos in Chile, which is also a tribute to a very special friend they had lost, Nicolás Boetsch.

As a way to help the planet to prosper appropriately, TriCiclos understood it was necessary to improve the new relationship of people with their habits of consumption and disposal. To do so, they created Recycling Stations, sorting stations for recyclable materials throughout Chile, changing the recycling map of the country.

In 2011, TriCiclos became the first B Corporation outside North America, with Gonzalo Muñoz as Sistema B co-founder. In 2014, he arrived in Brazil with investment from Fundo Mov. In 2018, it was the turn to put down roots in Colombia and Peru, in addition to provide consultancies for five more counties, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, thanks to the investment of FCP funds, from Colombia, and FIS Ameris, from Chile.

Operating so many from Recycling Stations, led TriCiclos to fully understand its customers and the logic of consumption. They decided to expand its operations, this time interfering directly in the redesign of products, services and business models.

Today, TriCiclos is able to influence the production chain of consumer goods even before their creation, promoting a more circular logic, well before the consumption stage. To do so, it has innovated by creating its own software and machinery to transform the materials into circular resources. https://triciclos.net/en/

Photo Credit: Triciclos

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