Chile, the Netherlands and circular economy: making the shift together

August 30, 2021

“After Chile hosted the COP25, a lot has happened in terms of climate action and the SDG’s. Chile has set ambitious climate goals of which “A circular Chile in 2040” is an important pillar. A lot is going on in Chile. We see plenty of opportunities. You could argue Chile is an unstoppable force in terms of protecting the environment and promoting circular economy.”

Lisette den Breems, deputy ambassador and head of the economics department at the Embassy of The Netherlands in Chile, shares her observations on Chile’s ambitious goals and Dutch-Chilean efforts for a circular economy.

Disclaimer: Holland Circular Hotspot publishes opinions on CE from a wide range of perspectives in hopes of promoting constructive debate about consequential questions about Circular Economy.

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Circularity as a key element for a more sustainable economy and society

After Chile hosted the COP25, a lot has happened in terms of climate action and the SDG’s. In its new NDC[1], Chile has set ambitious climate goals. “A circular Chile in 2040” is an important pillar of Chile’s goals. You could argue Chile is an unstoppable force in terms of protecting the environment and promoting circular economy.

Circularity is a broad term and the meaning is not always completely grasped by the majority of the Chileans, however it is undeniable that there is a huge awareness that we cannot continue living as we have during the last couple of decades. You could say that awareness sank in due to the ongoing water problems and ever more extreme periods of drought in Chile. If Chile does not take certain measures, experts believe that it can become the next South Africa where water ration is a daily practice. It certainly made sure that more aspects of the current economy and society are being looked at underneath a magnifying glass. We believe that Chile will become more sustainable in the upcoming years with circularity as a key element.

[1] Find Chile’s updated 2020 NDC here: In Updated NDC, Chile Aligns Climate and Sustainable Development Agendas | News | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD  and check its ambitious SDGs here: Chile Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible (Spanish only)

The circular approach is there to stay

Recently a new law regulating the single use of plastic has been enacted, but Chile has also been a buzzy bee with the rollout of the extended producer responsibility, a new focus on circular construction and circular agriculture. Chile is definitely not standing by.

In June 2021 the final Circular Economy Roadmap[1] was presented after a very comprehensive 2 year diagnostic, research and consultation process with public, private, academic actors and citizens. Building on this Roadmap, in July 2021 the Chilean Ministry of Environment together with Chile’s Economic Development Agency (Corfo) have launched the public-private initiative “Transform Circular Economy” to accelerate circularity in Chile by pushing the development of technology, innovation and creation of circular enterprises. We firmly believe this is where our two countries can inspire each other with concrete initiatives.

Following the social unrest at the end of 2019, the Chilean population has decided through a referendum to write a new constitution and has voted for the members of the constitutional council, mayors, local and regional administrators and regional governors. The result of these elections clearly show us that an environmentally aware approach to politics is there to stay.

[1] Find the roadmap towards a circular Chile in 2040: Hoja de Ruta – Economía Circular (mma.gob.cl) (Spanish only)

Turning challenges into (business) opportunities

The Embassy of the Netherlands in Santiago responds to these new developments by promoting Dutch circular economy approaches and solutions. We aim to inspire and to demonstrate that social and environmental challenges can in fact be turned into opportunities. Solutions for the reuse of treated sewage and other wastewater, the melting down of used plastic to produce crates, converting biological waste into energy are good examples of what we are working on.

With the support of the embassy, the Dutch company ‘The Waste Transformers’ is currently working on a design for a containerized installation in Chile, which will be converting organic waste on-site into electricity and heat for a large real estate project.

Together with the Dutch business community and Holland Circular Hotspot we organized a (digital) mission to Chile at the end of 2020 to share our knowledge, experience, services and products with the Chilean counterparts on circular economy applied to three key sectors: plastics & packaging, agriculture and water.

Rewatch the webinars below and read further below the videos!

Webinar Plastics & Packaging

Webinar Water Management

Webinar Agriculture

Waste management: Knowledge exchange, collaboration, and commercial opportunities

Chile is fairly advanced on waste management, compared to the countries in the region, and is working towards a Chilean circular economy. To work towards knowledge exchange on the topic and to explore commercial opportunities, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Santiago participates in studies and activities of the regional LATAM Embassy network.

For example, the LATAM Waste Management Study that took place in 2020 and 2021 and was executed by Holland Circular Hotspot. The study explored the status of waste management and related business opportunities in eight different countries in the Latin American region. Following the results of this study, key stakeholders in waste management from these eight countries were taken on a digital mission to The Netherlands, where in three days the Dutch expertise on waste management from the public and the private sector perspective was showcased.

Thinking big, starting small

A local example of circular ambitions is the avocado industry. Everywhere in the world, there is still a long way ahead to make avocado cultivation more sustainable. Chile is no exception. A large project supporting improvements is under development in the Aconcagua valley, where most of the avocados imported by the Netherlands come from. Circular aspects play a major role here: preventing water loss, reusing water, using less water more efficiently, reducing harvest loss, regenerating depleted agricultural land by restoring biodiversity, processing residual products, and composting organic waste to fertilize the lands.

The latest circular event on our agenda was a webinar on building strategic partnerships for a global bio-based trade, which was organized with support of our embassy. This event focused on Latin America and zoomed in on the valorization of residual streams from for example the Chilean forestry sector and the key role the Netherlands play in the global logistics chain.

Call to action

A lot is going on in Chile. We see plenty of opportunities. We will continue to work with the Chilean government, NGO’s and companies to promote circularity and raise climate ambition worldwide. At the same time, we are more than happy to assist Dutch companies in entering the Chilean market with circular solutions. Does Chile sound like an interesting market to you? Do not hesitate to keep in touch with the economic team of the embassy in Santiago! We will be happy to hear from you!