© Grupo AJE

22.11.2021

Peru: Using waste wisely, conserving resources

For the Incas, Machu Picchu was a place of spirituality. A few years ago, a rethink was needed to get the mountains of trash at the popular tourist site under control.

Terraced, on a ridge of the Andes at an altitude of about 2,500 metres, lies the famous ruined city of Machu Picchu. The Incas built it in the 15th century as a spring of spirituality. Before the onset of the pandemic, it attracted more than 1.5 million tourists a year to the Peruvian highlands. The numerous visitors are both a curse and a blessing for the small mountain village, which can only be reached by train. On the one hand they are an important source of income, but they also leave a lot of rubbish behind. Together with that produced by the local population, the total amount comes to about fourteen tonnes of waste per day.

In response, back in 2017, the municipality and a group of companies decided to act collectively. Jorge Lopez Doriga, Director of Communications and Sustainability at Peruvian beverage company AJE Group, sums up the first finding, ‘We have stopped viewing waste as a problem, but rather as a resource.’ Allianz is committed to the principle of the circular economy: to conserve resources, all materials are reused in production, trade and consumption.

Circular economy: find and show practical examples

The circular economy, as exists in Machu Picchu, plays an important role for the entire country in order to make the biodiversity targets of the Paris Climate Agreement and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality. Owing to the lack of examples in practice, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU), is supporting the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment in identifying concrete solutions in the country and making them visible.

The survey compiled a total of 140 case studies. Of those, 30 will be posed by the end of this year on a dedicated online platform. The examples are intended to inspire actors from the public and private sectors and provide knowledge about business models.

Giving old material a new lease of life: from biodiesel to street cleaner 

The community in Machu Picchu can contribute some case studies based on their experience. A plastic waste compactor has been in operation since 2017. This makes the waste easier to transport by train, recycle and reuse. A plant processes used oils and fats from the catering industry into biodiesel and glycerine. The resulting biodiesel is used as fuel for engines, while glycerine is used for street cleaning. A special furnace (known as a pyrolysis furnace) converts organic waste into vegetable charcoal. And it does so without combustion, thus avoiding the release of methane, a greenhouse gas that harms the climate. The vegetable charcoal can be reused as fertilizer or as a filter for treating waste water. The most recent acquisition, a pulverisation plant, recycles glass containers, turning them into sand, which can be used as raw material for building houses. Previously, sand from the nearby Vilcanota River had been used, which had an adverse impact on the ecosystem.

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