Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports.
La Paz in Bolivia is home to around one million residents and generates an estimated 500 tonnes of garbage every day. And that buried rubbish, says Ruben Ledezma, director of environmental company, Ema Verde, is not only potentially hazardous, but also costly. SOUNDBITE: RUBEN LEDEZMA, EMA VERDE DIRECTOR, SAYING (Spanish): "Every day we put 500 tonnes of solid waste in the landfill. The main part of this, 85 percent, is recyclable. In other words we are burying money and furthermore we are paying to do it." So, the city initiated an ambitious plan to be a zero-waste zone by 2040. It started five years ago and more than 250 public and private institutions now recycle plastics, paper and cardboard. The benefits are already evident in a product called "plastiwood". Once plastics have been cleaned, they're crushed, ground and then heated in molds, emerging as a sturdy, wood-like material. Plastiwood is used to build school furniture. So, students get to see firsthand the results of their recycling habits, as their soda bottles return in the form of chairs and tables. And many La Paz residents enthusiastically support the project. SOUNDBITE: JENNY AGUIRRE, LA PAZ RESIDENT, SAYING (Spanish): "It's admirable. I think that more public institutions should take this initiative. This is going to benefit everyone, not only Bolivia, La Paz or the Sopocachi neighbourhood, but the whole world." And if the city does reach its zero-waste goal, its main landfill site could become redundant.