Chile’s rapid and sustained economic growth since the beginning of the 21st century has been accompanied by an equally rapid increase in the amount of waste produced. The population has grown from 15 million in 2000 to nearly 20 million in 2022. At the same time the steep rise in disposable family incomes and greater availability of packaged goods has created a significant problem of how to dispose of the waste produced.
Historically, the country has focused on the appropriate final disposal of waste through sanitary landfill. Although landfill regulation has improved and the number of dumping sites reduced, the environmental problems generated by the hoarding of solid waste in landfills persist. Effects such as GHG emissions, water pollution, land erosion, and the rapid filling of the landfills, have shown that concentrating efforts on sanitary final disposal is not enough.
In 2020 it was estimated that 4.4 million tons of waste was generated, and that only 20% of the total waste produced was recycled. These waste dumps are the second biggest generator of methane in the country, and overall waste management produces nearly 5% of the national ghg emissions.
The environment ministry (MMA) is responsible for promoting reform in the circular economy, and for defining and policing the laws and regulations relating to waste management. It currently has many initiatives to encourage recycling and good practice. One of the most significant additions to the environmental laws recently was the introduction of the law of extended responsibility of the producer, known in Spanish as the Ley REP. In very simple terms it is an economic instrument that obliges producers of certain products to finance the disposal of their wastes in a sustainable way.