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In Ecuador, NCBA CLUSA’s new USAID-funded RADAR project aims to build a more circular economy

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Santa Cruz’s mayor and team learned about the objectives and scope of the RADAR project from its directors and technical team.

NCBA CLUSA’s Recycling, Adaptation, Development, Adjustment and Renewal (RADAR) project has taken its first steps after signing a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in February. The objective of this initiative is to reduce plastic pollution that reaches the ocean by creating improved Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) systems in the provinces of Galápagos and Manabí in Ecuador.

Between March 12 and 20, the RADAR team began its work by meeting with local authorities in the North Pacific Community of Manabí (MANPANOR) and the cantons of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal in Galápagos. After the RADAR technical team shared their experiences, capabilities and processes, they visited area recycling centers and overflowing landfills, some of which are generating high volumes of pollution.

Over the next five years, the RADAR project will work to improve comprehensive solid waste management systems that are inefficient and ecologically, socially, financially and politically unsustainable. The activities proposed by the project are based on the cooperative principles with the goal of building a more circular economy. With its financial, social and ecological sustainability focus, RADAR will strengthen existing solid waste management systems and connect these systems with profitable and sustainable markets. The project will support communities—including informal recyclers—by creating business opportunities and encouraging residents to reduce and classify waste appropriately.

During recent visits, the RADAR team confirmed that, while some recycling centers are managed more efficiently than others, they all face challenges due to poor infrastructure and damaged or unmaintained equipment. At the same time, staff work in hazardous conditions without adequate personal protective equipment.

The project will support recyclers like José Luis Rodriguez, who works at the Fabricio Valverde Center in Santa Cruz-Galápagos.

Outdoor dumps, meanwhile, are overflowing due to the daily influx of solid waste that emits greenhouse gases and ends up untreated in bodies of water and, ultimately, the ocean. Informal collectors have no support or opportunities and face an abusive and hostile environment as they search for recyclable materials for their livelihood. In talking to these collectors, the RADAR team found that some are eager for support, while others distrust strangers and were fearful of losing what little money they earn to support their families.

In reflecting on the recent visit, RADAR Communication Specialist Margarita Izquierdo said the task ahead for the team is an opportunity to shape a better, more sustainable future for generations to come. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘What legacy are we leaving for our children?’ How can we reduce pollution on our planet and improve the lives of people who depend on garbage for their livelihoods? Is it enough to improve waste management in our homes?” Izquierdo said.

Working on an environmental project alongside waste collectors reveals the “deeply human dimension of the effort,” she added. “Interacting with these people reveals not only their struggles and challenges, but also their resilience, ingenuity and inherent dignity. Their stories, aspirations and daily struggles underline the importance of not only addressing environmental issues, but also social and economic inequalities. This comprehensive approach offers us a great opportunity to witness first-hand the human face of sustainability efforts—fostering empathy, understanding and our shared commitment to creating a more equitable and fair society.”

“This comprehensive approach offers us a great opportunity to witness first-hand the human face of sustainability efforts—fostering empathy, understanding and our shared commitment to creating a more equitable and fair society.” – Margarita Izquierdo

“The RADAR project is ready to take on this enormous challenge,” Izquierdo added. “We commit to carrying out our work with passion and dedication… to ensure a better future for the communities directly involved, the next generations, and our oceans.”

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