The call for circular economic practices to be used in conjunction with other aspects of the renewable energy transition has been gaining more attention within the U.S. and Europe. Projects in the U.S. such as circular economy for textiles and metrics and tools for sustainable buildings encourage industries to take their downstream material usage seriously. While Argentina has not created a comprehensive plan to promote the circular economy, this presents opportunities as well as challenges. By learning from the circular economic policies and practices of the US and Europe, Argentina can integrate its push for renewable energy into a shift to a circular economy.
Positive steps have been made in the path to a circular economy in Argentina. In 2021, Buenos Aires launched the Circular Economy Network, which includes over 300 private and public sector entities that have come together to promote recycling efforts, reuse of resources across industries, and responsible consumption. The Sello Verde (Green Seal) represents positive waste management practices in government, residential, and commercial buildings and has been awarded to 142 institutions as of September 2022. Recycling has been growing within Buenos Aires. In 2015, 35% of residents reported they recycled routinely. By 2022, this number was over 50%. This was due in part to the recycling capacity in Buenos Aires, which doubled between 2016–2019. Other efforts done by the city over the past couple of years include regulating single-use plastics, which has reduced the usage of plastic straws by 2 million per month and reduced the use of plastic bags in shops by 500 million annually.
Work done by Arq. Marcelo Parodi M. demonstrates the impact that circular economic practices can have on the renewable energy sector. Parodi partnered with GENNEIA, the largest renewable energy company in Argentina, to find a secondary use for materials which were used in the installation of energy production areas. This included repurposing materials from their renewable energy projects. This collaboration led to the donation and recycling of 47 large wooden spools and 730 pallets. These were used in the creation of furniture for schools and communities. Along with furniture, this partnership donated wood, machines, tools, and supplies. Circular economic groups such as Closed Loop Fashion have taken a particular interest in the apparel industry in Argentina, which has included factory trips as well as meetings with manufacturers and local brands.
However, the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) partnered with several Argentinian government ministries to produce the Inventory of Policies Related to the Green Economy in Argentina report. This report found “there is no specific legislation on clean production in industry, or any regulatory framework (general standards) or specific regulations by branches or sectors.” The introduction of circular economic practices could provide economic growth for a sector that is in need of improvement. The report by PAGE found that “the recycling sector continues to be highly vulnerable, and it is the instance of the industrial chain with the highest predominance of informality, labor precariousness, low income, hazardous jobs, and even child labor.” Government policies which encourage the repurposing of valuable materials and mandate an end of life process for imported goods and manufacturing could increase value in the recycling sector. In its conclusion, this report outlined that the plans put forward in Argentina for environmental protection and sustainable development, including those for circular economic practices, have had a positive impact but have not resulted in the adoption of sustainability and circular economic practices as a core element of production planning in general or by sector.
Policies which encourage repurposing and re-use of materials can combat two of the major problems facing the recycling industry. The low recycling rate of manufacturing firms means that raw materials and energy demand remains high and continues to grow the environmental impact of waste generation. When asked for his thoughts on integrating circular economic practices into the private sector, specialist Arq. Marcelo Parodi M argued that these practices can provide businesses with a competitive advantage in the market, benefitting both the company and the earth. In the hopes of hastening the transition to a renewable economy in Argentina, PAGE has offered several recommendations. These include updating waste management legislation, growing the recycling sector to incorporate more recovered materials, and requiring public procurement processes to include sustainability criteria. These steps could provide Argentina with strong circular economic practices built on what they have already accomplished.
Report: Inventory of policies related to the green economy in Argentina
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