Chilean agribusiness accelerates the step towards a circular economy

A regulation that required nearly 90% of the sludge produced by food processing to go to a sanitary landfill has just been modified. This will give a second life to 40.000 tons per year of waste to improve soils and compost.

Only 10% of the 40.000 tons of sludge product of waste from the plants of the fruit and vegetable industry that are generated annually by 21 food processing companies in Chile, are used to improve the soil or as compost. The rest goes straight to the landfills.

Taking into account the strength that the concept of circular economy has taken, this sector, led by Chilealimentos, focused on ensuring that this large amount of organic material had a second life. Apart from improving a series of production methodologies based on a Clean Production Agreement (APL), there was another specific objective: to change the regulation that prevented the use of this sludge for agriculture.

The good news is that in early October, the Council of Ministers for Sustainability (CMS) approved the changes to said regulations. What does this change mean? The most important point is that the previous regulation established moisture parameters difficult to achieve for sludge from agribusiness, which generated the non-use of this nutrient-rich input for the fields. Specifically, a maximum allowed humidity of 70% was requested, the same criteria as for sewage. Today that requirement was removed.

According to Chilealimentos, this change will not only manage to reuse or revalue the 40.000 tons from factories of fruit pulps, concentrated fruit juices, frozen products, dehydrated products and tomato paste, but will also create greater awareness in this area. "We believe that this amount is doubled if the companies that are not part of our union are considered," says Carlos Descourvières, Chilealimentos Development and Sustainability Manager, adding: "This material could also be implemented for recovery plans of eroded sectors such as the coastal dryland ”.

A large part of this industry is located in the regions of Valparaíso, O'Higgins and Maule, with the most relevant companies in the Alifrut (Minuto Verde), Patagonia Fresh, Sugal and Invertec sectors.

"Before this change, most of the sludge generated by this sector ended up in a sanitary landfill, wasting the biological nutrients they contain and generating a negative impact on the environment, which will now be possible to reverse," says Carolina Schmidt, Minister of the Environment Environment, an entity that also participated in this modification, together with the Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies (Odepa) of the Ministry of Agriculture.


Another relevant point in the modification is to establish greater requirements for odor control. For this, the storage time is restricted and a scheduled cleaning procedure was established, through a registry.

In addition, for the application on the ground, a maximum accumulation period on the property was determined and the obligation to program the application considering the wind direction.

María Emilia Undurraga, director of Odepa, explains that the regulation is about a change of perspective where “we are not only focused on the productive part, but we also understand that the actions have an impact on people and the environment. These are solutions based on nature that allow us to transform actions that are often classified as problematic ”.

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