patagonia recycling

The Puerto Natales Recycling Project


What it is:
What started as a simple idea and a small recycle shed, turned into a major business practice for Erratic Rock and Base Camp. With generous grants from Patagonia, cooperation from the municipality of Puerto Natales, and efforts from local businesses, the Puerto Natales Recycling Project was born out of humble beginnings. There was a dire need for conservation in Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine. We felt it was imperative that this area of Patagonia, one of the last pristine places on Earth, developes systems to preserve the local wilderness and ecology for generations to come. We want an eco-friendly in Patagonia, and to improve conditions for locals, travelers and ourselves. 


Project Mission
The Puerto Natales Recycling Project ís mission is to continue the sustainable recycling program in Puerto Natales, Patagonia, for travelers and locals alike. This is Southern Patagoniaís first-ever long term, and only recycling system to be put into place.

The Current Reality

Puerto Natales is the gateway town to Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. Every year 250,000 people enter the national park, passing through Puerto Natales. Even though thousands of eager visitors, trekkers and climbers rush the area every season, there was no real recycle program to balance the impact, until this program was started last season. There have been several attempts to start recycle programs, but lack of funding in this extreme southern region of Chile prevents them from taking hold and moving forward. At the end of 2009, a handful of businesses in Puerto Natales launched a small program to collect and recycle the thousands of steel fuel canisters that are used every summer in Torres del Paine. This has grown into a successful city-wide recycling plan, and includes the recycling of most recyclable goods.
The Plan for a Complete Recycling Program
In the past, the seasonal nature of a tourist town like Puerto Natales is one of the reasons why previous recycling programs  have not been successful. Several businesses close down during the winter, so any program started during the summer months tends to disapate in the winter. Therefore the program must be restarted from scratch again the following summer. 
We, the founders of the PRP, live in Puerto Natales year-round. We have created a recycle program that will function and evolve year after year. Eventually growing into an example of a modern-day recycle center that a World Biosphere Reserve, such as Torres del Paine National Park, deserves.
A cargo ship, called Navimag, navigates weekly between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt. Puerto Montt is where the Walerecycling facility is located. The Wale Recycle Center receives all recyclables, such as plastic bottles, cardboard, glass, tetra packs, tin and steel. Local businesses in Puerto Natales, serving as collection points, will gather recyclables from travelers and locals, filling one cargo container per month.  Once it is filled it is transported to the Navimag dock by  AGETRAMT (Avda. Santiago Bueras Nro. 765, Puerto Natales, cell 8-2731294)  for its three-day journey to Puerto Montt. In Puerto Montt, the full container will be picked up and transferred to Wale for unloading and recycling. The container is then immediately shipped back to Puerto Natales for the next load of recyclables.
Destination: Fundación Wale, Puerto Montt:
Fundación Wale, (located at Avda. Circunvalacion Sitio 5 Manzana K, Puerto Montt, Chile), is a private institution for charity created in 2005. The foundation offers aid to children who suffer from different ailments, such as physical or psychological problems. Fundacion Wale operates as a large recycle center, taking metals, glass, cardboard, plastic bottles and more. 
Short-term goals:
The short-term goals for this recycling project are simple enough: We aim to continue the sustainable recycle program in Puerto Natales, season by season.
Long-term goals
The long-term goal for the PRP is to create a modern, nonprofit recycling facility in Puerto Natales, which will serve the entire Magallanes region. Having a locally run recycling facility will minimalize shipping costs and the associated environmental impact. This program is not about profit. This recycling program in Puerto Natales is about doing what is right and doing what is needed. Aside from creating a local facility, we would also like to facilitate the ease with which people can recycle their items. This means being able to pick-up recycling from individuals in addition to the drop off points. A pick-up that is coinsides with  garbage pick-up days is ideal.
How we'll do it:
• One of the goals of the first season is to gain public support. Southern Patagonia has never before dealt with the concept of recycling. It is difficult for towns, such as Puerto Natales, to visualize recycling as a way of life. Until a well planned and long term recycling program is put into place, stabilized and adopted by the local culture, recycling long term will never be realized. Once we have accomplished a measureable season of recycling, the public will see that the 

system in place actually works. As these recycling programs continue throughout the winter, not just during the peak summer months, people will be convinced that the recycling progams are here to stay. We will accomplish this through sustainable advertising and local education campaigns.
• We will always be available to answer questions and further educate the public on the on-going recycling programs.  All drop off points for recycling will be clearly marked and well maintained.  
• To raise the publics awareness of what the PRP is, we will hold special events, advertise in the local newspapers (La Prensa Austral and El Pengino) on local radio and television stations, continue to visit local schools and we will always lead by example.

Current Projects:

• Fuel Canister Recycling Program
From funding from the American Alpine ClubPatagoniaCascade Designs (MSR)Outdoor ResearchLeave No Trace and Erratic Rock made it possible to purchase a manual fuel canister crushing machine, create a canister storage facility, and to start an educational campaign.  After only a few short months, we collected thousands of canisters. Public response to this program has been impressive. Locals and travelers are eager to get involved. With the success of the fuel canister program and its educational campaign, it became clear that we can make a measurable difference in Patagonia.
• Recycled tent shopping bags:
At the Erratic Rock rental center, we use our old and worn out tents, and remake them into stylish, reuseable shopping bags. This not only helps against the over-use of plastic bags in Patagonia, but also reuses old tent material that would otherwise be thrown out.
To purchase one of these reused-tent-shopping-bags contact for more information. Proceeds go directly to the Puerto Natales Recycle Project.
To donate time or money to the Puerto Natales Recycling Project contact: or


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