MIT Public Service Center

Create Recycling Program in Calama, Chile


Calama, Chile


EcoMetales is a company focused on environmental solutions and metal recovery for the mining industry. Our plants are located in Calama, 1,600 kilometers north of Santiago. We specialize in the treatment of arsenic, antimony and other impurities in the flue dust generated by the copper smelting furnaces in the area, which impurities are converted into a stable residue while recovering copper and other value metals.

Calama is a typical country town with 140,000 inhabitants. Approximately one third of Chile's copper production is concentrated in the surrounding area. Unfortunately, by its history and culture, it is an ugly place to live in, with a large number of single workers, rootless and with no commitments to the place where they live.

In Calama, private wealth contrasts with public poverty, which finds expression in the absence of collective spaces for recreation, leisure, culture and sports, among others. The city as a public good almost does not exist.

The Challenge

Lately there have been several initiatives in the area of recycling, which are driven by long-term residents, with an environmental motivation. However, these are isolated initiatives that fail to generate a more comprehensive behavioral change in the community. In that sense, we believe that outsiders with a broader vision can help coordinate the efforts of the different organizations, so as to achieve greater visibility, continuity, scale, and sustainability with time.

The idea is to leverage existing social networks and to generate a virtuous circle, such that, in addition to cleaning the city and creating value for collectors, Calama may strengthen its ecological identity and the cohesiveness of its community, reversing its reputation of a community that does not actively care for its environment, but complains about it nonetheless. Calama needs to become a city that, besides generating private wealth, also generates public wealth and collective welfare.

EcoMetales is a party that can be a bridge between social organizations and other actors (NGOs, businesses, researchers) behind this project.

At the moment, the following actors are working in the space discussed:

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

We need an overview of the city and the community as a whole "living network" that can organize itself and act more effectively, not only socially, but also in environmental and economic aspects. The aim is to help generate a working business model that generates efficiency in all these three aspects. The project needs to promote a virtuous circle by mobilizing social participation, driven by altruism and the common good, from the resources of the community. Must have planning skills, knowledge of social participation, effective communication, entrepreneurship and recycling of household waste.

Time Constraints

Support is welcome at any stage, but particularly in the step of designing the proposal and its implementation.


Maria Jose Luque, Public Affairs Manager
Phone: 056 2 2378 4100