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Chile’s landfills emitted 4 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, threatening the country’s people, environment and ability to meet its Paris Agreement pledge.
In a joint venture with Canada, Chile brought Arcadis sustainability experts on board to create Reciclo Orgánicos, a long-term program to mitigate greenhouse gases and recycle organic waste.
The program is designing and implementing anaerobic digestion, composting and landfill gas capture solutions in seven Chilean communities with potential for future expansion.
A global effort to combat climate change
Chile’s landfills were emitting more than 4 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) per year. Much of it was methane, which has a global warming potential more than 20 times that of carbon dioxide when in the atmosphere. The GHGs were threatening Chile’s citizens as well as its ability to meet its Paris Agreement pledge.
The country and its longstanding environmental partner, Canada, wanted to create a sustainable waste management program that would be less harmful to people and the environment. The countries, which had been fighting climate change together since the 1997 Chile-Canada Agreement on Environment Cooperation, aimed to innovate Chile’s waste streams. For Canada, the opportunity to establish a low-carbon economy and contribute to the global cleantech revolution aligned squarely with its pledge to invest $2.65 billion in global environmental projects by 2021.
Based on proven waste management competencies in Canada as well as broad sector environmental and regulatory expertise in Chile, the countries brought our specialists on board to overhaul the existing waste management model.
Recycling organics into compost and generating alternative energy
The project team saw incredible potential for treating organics as a resource rather than a waste stream. Composting, anaerobic digestion and landfill gas capture would turn organics into assets for agriculture, energy production and fuel for transportation. Our engineers helped the countries design a plan for a sustainable, low-carbon future called Reciclo Orgánicos. The program had four core mandates:
- Technology deployment: Helping Chile mitigate GHG emissions from the municipal waste sector with guidance around purchasing, designing and implementing new composting facilities, anaerobic digestors and landfill gas capture systems.
- Monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV): Creating a robust and transparent MRV mechanism for measuring GHG emissions mitigated because of the program. This includes developing protocols for funding blockchain development of GHG reductions, and using the MRV to monitor gas reductions that eventually will be traded as internationally transferred mitigation outcomes.
- Capital leveraging and co-financing: Helping Chile and Canada identify potential investors from the public and private sectors as well as international development institutions supporting GHG-reduction projects.
- Community engagement: Engaging municipalities and raising awareness within Chile about climate change to create public buy-in. Arcadians helped guide public outreach and supported training sessions for municipal staff using in-person and online classes.
With buy-in from citizens, businesses and municipal leaders, our sustainability experts were able to apply unique waste management improvements based on an area’s needs, goals and organic recycling potential. More than 30 communities are directly or indirectly receiving support, such as source-separation of organic residues for composting or anaerobic digestion and extraction of landfill gas for clean energy production.
The program is acts as a decision-support system for municipalities to develop organic management projects. Projects are spread across a variety of geographies, climatic conditions and population sizes, and each requires a customized approach to mitigating GHG emissions.
Early projects included installing a new composting plant to manage organic residues in Santa Juana and processing discarded organics using aerated static piles and GORE® Cover Technology in Talca. In San Felipe, Reciclo Orgánicos is collaborating with a private landfill operator and the local municipality leaders to develop a 2-megawatt landfill gas power plant. Each success helps the team strengthens the team’s ability to evaluate and implement optimal solutions for mitigating GHG emissions from Chile’s municipal solid waste management system.
In the third year of program implementation, the team added measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) protocols to track and maximize landfill gas recovery. A blockchain pilot was also launched to optimize digital MRV. The first stage assessed monitoring, planning and data systems for collection volumetric flow rates, gas composition analysis, combustion device and operation, and combustion efficiency. Looking ahead, it will examine other relevant information systems such as back-end networks, data quality assurance/controls, Internet of Things connections, security systems and external data sources. The pilot is scheduled for completion in March 2021.
Building a foundation for a low-carbon future
Reciclio Orgánicos diverts more than 6,000 metric tons of organic waste from landfills and captures more than 70,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent annually. Over the first three years of the program, it directly or indirectly reduced 6.65 megatons of CO2 equivalent. Every project represents a step toward making Chile and Canada’s shared vision of a low-carbon future a reality. Each successful implementation will provide Chileans with cleaner air, cheaper energy and more sustainable waste management services.
Beyond the measurables, a key achievement has been highlighting the connection between organic waste and climate change for Chilean policymakers and citizens. Giving stakeholders a firsthand look at the value of improving organic waste management practices inspired the Ministry of Environment to develop a National Organic Waste Strategy. Reciclio Orgánicos team members will guide Ministry of Environment leaders in defining the strategy, engaging stakeholders and applying technical solutions.
Visit Reciclio Orgánicos for more information.