As we celebrate World Environment Day today, we Indians have something to learn from Peru people on garbage.
For Peruvians, trash is not garbage. They have already turned a million plastic bottles into thousands of ponchilas, in one of Peru’s most innovative recycling campaigns.
'Ponchila' is a backpack with an incorporated poncho made by recycled plastic bottles. Each ponchila is made out of 80 recycled plastic bottles.
A ponchila is a combination of the Spanish words 'poncho and 'mochila'.
The ponchila was designed to protect the poorest children in the Andes, many of whom must travel several kilometers a day, often in inclement weather to get to school.
To reduce school dropouts in the Andes highlands because of extreme temperatures and the long distances that children must travel to get to school, the ponchila project was started in 2016.
The project was started with the participation of Cencosud, Agua San Luis (owned by Coca-Cola) and Pacífico Seguros.
The companies invited citizens to support the initiative by recycling their plastic drinking bottles during the summer, when consumption is high.
“With this initiative, we are recovering a lot of plastic that could end up in landfills, dumps or in the oceans," said Miguel Nárvaez, head of social and business responsibility at Cencosud.
In 2017, the project produced 6,000 ponchos and in 2018, another 7,000 have already been made.
Before the beginning of the school year, the produced ponchilas were delivered to children in the provinces of Puno, Cusco, Arequipa, Huancavelica, Ayacucho and Apurímac.
But helping the poor kids was not the only achievement the project did.
“Thanks to the campaign, almost 40% of the customers of our supermarkets began to recycle plastic for the first time. For us that represents a relevant impact," said Narváez.
The Ministry of Environment of Peru joined the campaign in 2018, which actively worked to promote sustainable consumption and innovative ways to reuse disposable plastics.
“With this initiative what we are doing is closing the circle, using our waste and giving them an added value through recycling,” said Environment Minister, Fabiola Muñoz.
Every day in Peru, 18,000 tonne of waste are generated, of which 10% is plastic and very little is recycled.
Aided by the success of project Ponchila, the national government is promoting a bill in Congress to boost the circular economy by reducing the consumption of plastics and promoting the use of recycled materials.
“A bottle that served you can become something useful for someone else. We have the opportunity to convert something that apparently no longer has a use into a positive thing with a new use," said Minister Muñoz.
Every minute, people around the world use one million plastic bottles, and most of them end up in the oceans, where they harm wildlife.
First Published: IST