Author: sEaNERGIA Baltic Cluster

 Latin America (LATAM) has plenty of natural resources but historically the region has had difficulties translating its wealth into long-term economic development processes. Nonetheless, Latin America is a region that can obtain great economic benefits, while protecting its valuable natural resources, its communities and the environment. Thus, the circular economy model represents an enormous financial opportunity for businesses in Latin America.

An attempt to move away from the current ‘take and dispose’ approach to exploiting natural resources in LATAM countries has already started. However, circular economy thinking and practice is still at an early stage in LATAM. Undeniably, circular economy rules become attractive for business as a result of rising and fluctuating commodity prices combined with environmental stresses on resources.

Following Petar Ostojic (Economía Circular desde el Desierto más Árido del Mundo)[1], Latin America is known for its abundance in natural resources, accounting for 44% of world’s copper, 49% of silver, 65% of lithium, 20% of world’s oil reserves, 33% of freshwater reserves and 20% of native forests on the Earth. However, during the 20th century, the

region was not able to translate its wealth into long-term economic development, mainly due to its lack of comprehensive resource and waste management policies, as well as having an early-stage entrepreneurial and innovation activity during that period of time.

According to the World Bank, Latin America generates 160 million tons of solid waste per year -with an average per capita value of 1.1 kg/day- but less than 3% gets reused or recycled. However, it is expected that by 2030, the region will increase its population by 17%, reaching 705 million, further incrementing its per capita waste generation by up to 45%, reaching 1.6 kg per day. Furthermore, in Latin America over 60% of the waste ends up in inadequately controlled landfills. Solid waste composition has also changed from being mostly organic to become mostly non-biodegradable. In fact, the region currently produces 9% of the world’s total e-waste, and it is expected to increase to 15% by 2018.

Even though Latin America only accounts for 8% of the world’s GDP, it has successfully managed to take 70 million people out of poverty while expanding its middle class by 50%, showing one of the world’s highest urbanization rates, reaching a 75%, compared to a world average of 50%. However, due to the current economic slowdown, the region has experienced low growth averages of 2-2.5% and unemployment is expected to rise, meaning that approximately 19 million people won’t be able to find a job. As expressed above, Latin America has a unique potential in terms of the efficient use of its resources.  The creation of new waste management policies can generate interesting opportunities for the new entrepreneurial and innovative culture that has developed in the region for the last decade. Moving towards a circular economy can become a key industrial policy strategy for a job-rich economic recovery in Latin America, providing triple wins for jobs, business and the environment.

There has already been some great progress achieved by businesses in the circular economy area – under the below link here are circular economy companies located in LATAM:

[1] (29.05.2017)

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