Roadmap to the circular economy for Chile without garbage

Circularity in action | Regional overview on Latin America and the Caribbean | Roadmap to the circular economy for Chile without garbage

Key takeaways

Chile’s key incentive for moving towards the circular economy is the growing generation of solid waste in landfills. Chile’s proposed Roadmap to the Circular Economy therefore focuses on waste reduction and management, resource efficiency and job creation.

The circular economy is considered as an important tool for overcoming the climate crisis and meeting Chile’s climate commitments.

Due to the vast diversity of Chile’s territories, the transition to the circular economy is planned to allow for different priorities of the country’s regions to meet their needs and potential.

The responsibility for the initiatives proposed under the Roadmap to the Circular Economy is divided between the various Chilean ministries and institutions, which enhances the durability of the Roadmap and the likelihood of progress on its goals.

Special emphasis is placed on circular projects that lead to job creation.

Inclusiveness is an important factor in Chile’s development towards the circular economy. The development of its Roadmap involved a diversity of actors, including the private sector, civil society associations and academia. These consultative efforts aimed to increase ownership of these actors over the Roadmap initiatives, hence contribute to building the Roadmap long-term sustainability. Attention has also been brought to presenting the Roadmap to the Circular Economy in an accessible format and language to facilitate the understanding and participation of the general public in meeting the Roadmap’s goals.


In Chile, landfills have an average lifespan of 12 years, and if the current model of manufacturing, using and throwing is not changed, new landfills will have to be put into operation. Chile has been ranked with the lowest material productivity of the OECD countries, generating only 0.56 USD per kg. of material used by the economy (average being 2.88 and highest 6.41 USD). In addition, Chile imports all virgin plastic used in production processes and only a small part of plastic waste is recycled, adding further to the waste problem.

Chile’s decision to move towards the circular economy has been motivated by this growing amount of waste that is sent to landfills. The circular economy is also seen as an important tool to overcome the climate crisis and meet Chile’s climate commitments, as reflected in Chile’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution.

In this context, the Government of Chile has developed and launched the proposal of a National Roadmap to the Circular Economy – For a Chile Without Garbage, 2020 – 2040, to support the transition towards a sustainable, resilient and inclusive development. It brings together 7 ambitious goals and 32 concrete initiatives with a view to transforming the country by 2040.

The Roadmap to the Circular Economy is part of a wider policy framework that seeks to achieve a more sustainable society, including the bill for a Framework Law on Climate Change currently under discussion in Congress. The draft law sets the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. It is estimated that the carbon neutrality goal will require an investment of around USD 40-50 billion, with an expected net profit of USD 30 billion by 2050.

Chile’s Journey To the Circular Economy – Plastic Bag Ban and EPR Acts

The proposed Roadmap to the Circular Economy builds on a number of existing circular economy initiatives, and notably the Plastic Bag Ban Act and the Extended Producer Responsibility Act (Act No. 20.920 – Law on Extended Producer Responsibility and Promotion of Recycling).

In 2018, Chile became the first country in the Latin-America and the Caribbean region to ban plastic bags through the Plastic Bag Ban Act. This Act had a progressive implementation, first allowing up to two bags per purchase for 6 months, then banning the delivery of bags for large companies. In 2020, the law was extended to SMEs and fairs. The Ministry of the Environment also developed environmental education programmes for civil society to encourage more responsible use of plastic bags.  

In April 2019 the Chilean Plastics Pact was established by the Chile Foundation and the Ministry of Environment with the aim of rethinking the future of plastics by bringing together all relevant actors of the plastics value chain such as companies, government agencies and NGOs.  The Chilean Plastics Pact played an important role in the development of the Roadmap to the Circular Economy. Amongst other, the Roadmap to the Circular Economy aims to strengthen Chile’s strategy for the use of plastics strategy through the development of a regulation on limiting imports of certain plastic products (see Initiative 18 of the Roadmap) and communication programmes (see Initiative 12 of the Roadmap).

The 2016 Extended Producer Responsibility Act (EPR Act), complements Chile’s plastic strategy. The EPR Act has targets for the collection and recovery of commonly used products that are not valorized or recycled effectively. The EPR Act includes six categories of “priority products” (including batteries, electric equipment and tyres).

The EPR Act introduced the polluter-payer principle which stipulates that producers and importers should organize and finance the collection and valorization of waste they place on the market in line with targets of the Ministry of the Environment. The first regulated priority products are tyres and packaging with valorization goals of 60% for 2027 and 90% for 2030 respectively. New priority products and their valorization goals will be regulated for EPR application during the implementation of the Roadmap to the Circular Economy (see Initiative 23 of the Roadmap).

Cleaner Production Agreements (APL in Spanish), have also been initiated through the EPR Act, to promote the circular economy. For example an APL for the eco-labelling of packaging is in development by the Chilean industrial sector association (SOFOFA), the Ministry of the Environment, the Agency for Sustainability and Climate Change, along with 32 production and recycling organizations. In this context, the Roadmap to the Circular Economy envisages the creation of a national eco-labelling system (see Initiative 14 of the Roadmap).

The Roadmap to the Circular Economy

A participatory process

The Roadmap to the Circular Economy is the result of a participatory process, which began in 2019, through collaboration between the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism (MINECON), the Production Development Corporation (CORFO) and the Agency for Sustainability and Climate Change (ASCC).  A Strategic Committee with 33 representatives from the private sector, academia and civil society also provided input into the Roadmap’s development.

The work of the Strategic Committee was complemented by eleven thematic round tables involving more than a hundred stakeholders and addressing topics such as regulatory barriers, eco-design, education, innovation and local economies. The roundtables were convened over the summer of 2020, seeking to generate concrete proposals for the Roadmap to the Circular Economy.

The Roadmap’s development also benefitted from technical advice from an International Advisory Committee composed of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, SITRA – The Finnish Innovation Fund, the French Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, The European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Inter-American Development Bank and the World Economic Forum, among others.

The Roadmap is presented in an easily accessible format and uses simple language to facilitate the understanding and participation of the general public.

Measurable goals

The seven goals of the Roadmap to the Circular Economy provide insight to the scope and ambition of the Roadmap. These goals will be measured through a monitoring plan, which is under development and will be included in the final version of the Roadmap.

A robust governance and accountability systems are yet to be associated with the Roadmap to ensure its successful and continuous implementation.

IndicatorBase LineGoal (2020)Goal (2040)
Circular opportunities
Employment generationTo be developed100,000 new jobs180,000 new jobs
Circular Citizenship
Municipal waste per capita201810% reduction25% reduction
Municipal waste recycling201830% increase65% increase
Circular Production
Material productivity201730% increase60% increase
Solid waste generation by GDP201715% increase30% increase
General recycling201740% increase75% increase
Quality of Life
Number of illegal solid waste dumping sitesTo be developed50% eliminated90% eliminated

A circular, fair and inclusive development

The vision of the Roadmap to the Circular Economy is that by 2040 the regenerative circular economy will foster development that puts priority on people’s well-being; through the protection of ecosystems, responsible and efficient management of natural resources and sustainable production and consumption. Emphasis is put on promoting actions that push the circular economy at the cross-cutting level, rather than focusing on individual sectors. 

Concrete Initiatives for a Circular Chile 2040

The Roadmap to the Circular Economy identifies 32 initiatives to achieve a Circular Chile 2040. The initiatives are established in four lines of action: Innovation, culture, regulation and territories.

The implementation of the initiatives is planned for the next 10 years with short (2022), medium (2026) and long term (2030) goals. Each initiative will be supported by a responsible institution. Among the responsible institutions from the public sector are the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Energy and the Production Development Corporation.

While some of the initiatives build on baseline studies and feasibility assessments, others have been formulated without robust baseline studies or sectorial analysis to define and prioritize actions to achieve the Roadmap goals.

The initiatives and their associated actions would benefit from being more specific and having a clearer connection to the goals of the Roadmap. This may be the result of a lack of political consensus on some of the initiatives, which concern politically sensitive topics and may still be under negotiation. While the emphasis on consensus may lead to a slower implementation process it improves the likelihood of continuity and stability of the Roadmap’s initiatives.

The initiatives for the four lines of circular action (Innovation, Culture, Regulation and Territories) are presented below along with the associated actions and responsible institutions.

I. Circular innovation

Public funds have played a leading role in supporting circular innovation in Chile. Funds from the Production Development Corporation (CORFO – Economic Development Agency) have supported circular innovations since 2018, including for example the creation of thermal insulation panels from textile waste (EcoFibra), recycling of batteries (Recybatt), cloth production from beeswax (EnvuelBee) or the manufacturing of urban furniture from waste from the salmon industry (Greenspot).

In early 2021, CORFO announced a programme “Develop Productive Investment for Circular Economy Projects” for a new call to boost the sustainable reactivation of national SMEs, notably to finance and promote the development of new eco-designed products or resource efficiency processes. CORFO has also promoted the development of networks and training programmes on the circular economy for businesses.

In addition, the Agency for Sustainability and Climate Change (ASCC) has promoted at least 12 circular economy-based Cleaner Production Agreements in recent years. Examples include:

  • Dairy industry: Agreement signed by a group of dairy processing companies on issues such as water and energy efficiency, improving waste management and implementing measures and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Industry sector: A number of companies led by the Containers and Packaging Centre of Chile (CENEM) signed a Cleaner Production Agreement to incorporate eco-design tools, carbon footprint, as well as improving sustainable management in the packaging sector and its value chain and implementing the principles of the circular economy.
  • Mussel growing: Agreement carried out by the Association of Mussel Growers (AmiChile) promoting sustainability in the sector, including a zero-waste goal.

The tables below list some of the upcoming initiatives on circular innovation that are outlined in the Roadmap to the Circular Economy and will be implemented in the future.

Circular Culture InitiativesKey actionsResponsible Institution
Circular Company AccreditationImplement an accreditation system that makes company progress visible.ASCC, AVINA
Articulation and Activation of Circular Innovation EcosystemsCharacterize value chains and their actors to enable collaborative projects.CORFO, MMA
Financing for the Scaling-up of Circular SolutionsGenerate financing rounds with banking and incubators; Identify equity funds and conduct match-making events.CORFO, MINECON, ASCC, MMA
Promoting Industrial SymbiosisStudy of industrial symbiosis; Develop pilots and interactive platforms for the secondary materials market.CORFO, ASCC, SOFOFA, Chile Foundation
Circular Public ProcurementPilot tenders with circularity criteria; expand goods for public procurement and evaluate the incorporation of CE into public works.MMA
Local Information Systems for Environmental Impact Modeling of Goods and ServicesGather relevance indicators such as carbon footprint, material flow, etc.; Develop databases of lifecycle inventories and product impacts.MMA, PUCV
Logistics for the Circular EconomyEncourage transition to cleaner transport (e.g. electromobility); Promote EPR for packaging for the transport of retail products.MINECON, CORFO, MMA, ASCC
Research and Development for the Circular EconomyEncourage the development, in universities and R&D&I centers, of R&D lines to accelerate the transition to the CEMINCYT, CORFO, ANID

II. Circular culture

During the development of the Roadmap, a survey was conducted on the main barriers to moving towards the circular economy, showing that one of the most important barriers relate to culture and awareness. The table below lists some of the initiatives which will aim at enhancing a circular culture in Chile. 

Circular Culture InitiativesKey actionsResponsible Institution
Culture of PreventionDevelop a culture of prevention to avoid waste and promote reuse, repair and remanufacturing.MMA, MSUR, ADC Circular
Culture of PreventionDevelop a culture of prevention to avoid waste and promote reuse, repair and remanufacturing.MMA, MSUR, ADC Circular
Durability LabelDevelop a pilot voluntary label; Develop legislation establishing a definitive national labelASCC, MMA, MINECON, ADC Circular
Ecolabeling System for Chile
Put in place a national eco-labelling system that orders and structures existing and future eco-labelling initiatives.MMA, ANIR, SOFOFA, Basura Foundation
Circular Economy SkillsIncrease the offer of training in eco-design, circular business models, repair and remanufacturing; Include CE content in technical and university careersMINCYT, MMA, PUCV

III. Circular regulation

The development of circular regulation will be carried out gradually, considering economic, social and environmental impacts. The table below lists the initiatives and actions for creating a conducive circular regulatory framework: 

Circular Regulation InitiativesKey actionsResponsible Institution
Regulations to Facilitate Circular Economy ApplicationsDevelop standards for a) recycling in construction; b) quality of used oils and tyre fuels; c) use of recycling in food packaging.MMA
Updating the Regulatory Framework for to facilitate Waste ValorisationDevelop regulations to facilitate the secondary raw materials market and the implementation of waste valorisation facilities.MMA
Increasing the Final Disposition StandardGradually prohibit the disposal of some organic waste and improve methane capture in landfills; improve emission standards in incineration and co-processing.MMA, MINSAL
Incentives for the Separation of Waste at SourceEstablish mandatory separation of waste at source; Evaluate the infrastructure for the separation and storage of waste in buildings.MMA, MSUR, AMUSA, ANIR
Improving the Standard of Trade in the Circular EconomyEvaluate minimum standards for the import of second-hand products and waste for valorisation; Expand the range of products subject to safety and quality standards.MMA, MINECOM
Taxation for the Circular EconomyAssess the establishment of a landfill provision tax; assess the establishment of tax incentives for secondary materials use.MMA
Expand Range of Products to EPRConduct feasibility studies and issue regulations on new priority products subject to EPR.MMA, ANIR
Strengthening the Control of the Inadequate Waste DisposalStrengthen auditing and increase penalties in clandestine landfills; strengthen human resources and incorporate citizens into environmental control.MMA, SUBDERE, MINSAL
Regulation for Increased Product DurabilityEstablish regulatorily mechanisms for companies that produce or import durable goods to increase their lifespan.MMA, MINECOM, ADC Circular, ODECU
Solidarity Fee for Waste ServicesSet waste management service rates per volume of waste generated; increase the collection fee for municipal waste management services.MMA, SUBDERE, MINECON

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