There is a worldwide concern that the ability of our environmental systems to sustain the conditions of life as we know it is being compromised. We need to act now, and we need to act fast, so today more than ever we need innovative solutions and a different approach to problem solving.
Every time we analyze a problem by focusing only in its consequences, we risk not understanding it at all. We miss the opportunity to comprehend what is causing it in the first place, and that the solution might not be to solve the end result, but to eliminate the root that is causing the problem in the first place.
At TriCiclos, this is our view regarding waste. We believe that waste is an error of design, and a consequence of a system based on short-term decisions, and poor habits that need to be transformed as soon as possible.
For many years, society has believed that the problem of waste is solved by designing a good disposal place, such as a well-regulated landfill, or by making garbage “disappear” as quickly as possible from our sight (hopefully to a place that we will never see or smell). However, this only exacerbates the problem; if we don’t see how much we are throwing away, we cannot visualize a way to decrease it.
As a B Corporation, we are permanently trying to excel on how our solutions positively impact the world, so we have designed a system that completely changes the way we manage our waste, by imitating nature itself.
We have designed a system based on recycling trees, where each tree is able to receive, filter and recirculate recyclable materials, purifying the system the same way trees in nature purify the air.
Each tree represents a cluster that has the capacity to reach over 10,000 people and recover 15,000 kg of waste per month, based on the Puntos Limpios (“Clean Points”) model developed by TriCiclos.
TriCiclos’ Clean Points are small recycling plants that receive waste materials directly from the consumer. They are operated by an environmental monitor who educates citizens and also helps to optimize the logistics of the materials received, which are later sent directly to the recycling plants.
These Clean Points are the heart of the tree; the cooperatives of waste pickers are the trunk and the recycling companies, the roots. The branches are a collection of other recycling tools that TriCiclos provides - such as Reverse Vending Machines, Mobile Clean Points, and Curbside recycling. In this ecosystem, people – the leaves of the tree - are as vital to solving the crisis as industry and government.
With this groundbreaking innovation, we have been able to collect 7,300 tons of recyclable waste in 5 years, certifying 100 percent traceability of those materials, and making sure our customers also know the results.
Transparency in our operations is key to the success of the program, as people will support initiatives that make them feel their efforts are being valued and taken seriously. Proof of this is the incredible rate of visitors we receive per month: 47,000 visits in a network of 60 Clean Points in Chile, which is also attractive for commercial brands who want to support sustainable initiatives related to recycling.
Because of this, we have developed a number of alliances with different brands in Chile, including the first “Collective Recycling Project” – a joint collaboration with Walmart, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Unilever, which aims to recycle about 1,200 tons of waste per year through the installation of five recycling centers in the capital city of Santiago.
Companies receive reports on a monthly basis with useful data on the recovery rate of each type of waste, as well as number of visitors and the quantified positive environmental impacts of the recycling process they support. Also, they are able to identify who their promoting customers are and foster loyalty within them through rewards and incentives.
After 5 years operating in Chile, TriCiclos has recently opened a new office in Sao Paulo, which aims to export the recycling tree model to Brasil and then to the rest of South America. The road ahead is still full of challenges, but with an innovative mind and comprehensive view of the problems and their solutions, we are sure to succeed in this new path, the same way we have done so far in Chile.