We live in an age where we generate lots of organic waste (discarded oil) that can be reused, and where Chile’s big cities are accumulating waste without any law to regulate it, polluting Mother Earth, in particular her waters.
From a position of wanting to protect Mother Earth, and an understanding that nature supports human life and that we cannot live without Mother Earth, but she would be able to live without humans, at Las Urracas we have started to look for ways to take responsibility for this situation.
In this regard, and given that domestic-use oil poured down drains and onto the ground seriously pollutes the environment, we set up this oil-recycling venture.
According to studies, we know that one litre of oil can pollute 1000 litres of water. (Countries that are leaders in oil recycling recycle over one litre per capita per year, whereas in Chile it is practically 0% litres.) Most of this oil is poured down the drain, (70% of obstructions in piping is linked to pouring away this used vegetable oil) onto the ground in our cities and into our sea, and both through the drains or through the groundwater, this oil ends its journey of pollution in the ocean.
While working as scrap collectors, we collect and recover domestic-use oils, filter them and take them to their final destination where they are converted into Biodiesel.
To set up this venture we needed to inform ourselves more about current Chilean legislation around environmental protection. With this information, we started the process of certification for our companions, premises and vehicles for this task.
During this process we discovered a legal and cultural vacuum in Chile for dealing with discarded oil, which is not a priority compared to lubricating or industrial oil. We therefore decided to start activities to address these vacuums.
To launch this initiative, we have started to carry out environmental education activities together with the local authorities in the metropolitan areas and in Concepción. These activities were initially aimed at children (schools) and neighbourhood councils (in slum areas).
In Concepción we launched a media campaign and carried out visits to food businesses in the municipalities of Chiguayante, Concepción, San Pedro de la Paz, Hualpén and Talcahuano.
The work we have been carrying out in Las Urracas broadly splits into three different aspects: management, practical work and administration.
For management, both the Santiago and the Concepción teams have a manager who is responsible for directing the work and progressing towards proposed targets.
The practical work is carried out by a team that has the task of preparing the material for collection (in drums), filtering the oil and collecting it in the appropriate containers.
The administrative side supports the logistics behind these tasks.
Over almost three years of work, we have managed to forge various links, mainly with the environmental departments of the local authorities in the metropolitan area and Concepción.
In Santiago we work with neighbourhood councils in San Bernardo, San Miguel and Calera de Tango, and we are currently working on agreements with the municipalities of Pudahuel and Quinta Normal. Another link that we have created is through our companions in the San Bernardo community, who invited us to take part in the Food Recovery initiative at the Lo Valledor fruit, vegetable and groceries market. There, we also have also started working on recycling oil, contributing our knowledge around oil recycling to teach the community not to pollute Mother Earth and the environment that surrounds us, all while thinking of Good Living and the Common Good and Good Living for Humanity.
In Concepción, we coordinate with the environmental departments of the local authorities in Chiguayante, Concepción, San Pedro de la Paz and Hualpén. We now have a production plant for creating biofuel out of this used frying oil from restaurants and households. This plant was freely transferred to us from the Hualpén municipality as a mutual cooperation agreement. The necessary electrical installations have been carried out and we are soon to begin with the new experience of producing fuel from this used cooking oil.
As mentioned previously, work started after becoming aware of the need to protect Mother Earth and contribute to Good Living and the Common Good of Humanity.
Information and existing legislation on the topic.
Capacity building and training the workforce.
Creating appropriate infrastructure to get the project underway. Premises, vehicles and tools. This was for the safety of the companions (contingency planning) and to have the necessary health certification to operate. We have health certification from the health services both in the metropolitan area and in Concepción. In Concepción we have a truck with load capacity of 500kg, and another with load capacity of 3500kg. In the metropolitan area and Concepción we also have plastic tanks that hold 20, 60, 200 and 1000 litres for removing and collecting the oil. For filtering, we have an electric pump and filters for its purification.
Gathering, collection, filtering and sale to the final recipient.
Our future outlook is mainly concerned with having the rights of Mother Earth recognised. This will lead to the topic of the environment being placed within public policy in our country. We are also interested in taking this message to sectors that are marginalised and that suffer from the deterioration of the environment due to the ruthless extractivism that we are experiencing in our continent.
With regard to the economic venture, this activity should allow us to provide material support to the work of Las Urracas as a whole.
According to our records we have managed to remove approximately 2500 litres of waste oil per month from the environment, preventing it from ending up in drains and the sea.
Another important achievement is environmental education, taking the topic of oil recycling to the most vulnerable and defenceless populations in our society. Thanks to this, we have managed to extend our contacts and strengthen the public relations that we need to promote the topic in social and political organisations, as well as public establishments that are focused on this issue.
This activity is mainly linked to the defence of Mother Earth and her rights, considering the right to improve human living conditions, and conservation of nature and the environment at a global level.
We therefore believe that our initiative fits mainly within what the Emmaus International Movement calls “Social and Environmental Justice, for a Sustainable World”.
It also falls within developing and supporting actions of resistance to the neoliberal model or other forms of domination. This initiative allows us to progress with our idea of making Las Urracas’ social activity self-sustaining, which falls within the proposal for an ethical and solidarity economy for access to fundamental rights.
This activity has allowed us to broaden our relationships with public establishments linked to the issue of the environment in cities where we are present. It has also forced us to progress with our capacity building and theoretical and practical training to deal with environmental education, and therefore stand up to the extractivism that our country and continent are suffering.
Another important aspect to mention is the links that we have managed to create with other social organisations that work on the topic of the environment, managing to carry out joint activities.
We have realised that when it comes to recycling oil, we need to continue expanding service coverage in the cities in which we are present. To do this, we need to strengthen our work on public relations with those who require our service.
Expanding our coverage will require us to have increased working capacity, which will mean increasing the number of companions, improving transport (the trucks) and our capacity for collection and filtering.