OnBoard Laboratory – Session #13 in Ecuador

Find out more about the plastic recycling entrepreneurs who took part in the training program on board the vessel in Guayaquil.

Smart local recycling initiatives

Guayaquil, the last stop on our Latin American epic, was the rallying point for the Ecuadorian recyclers. As in many countries in the region, local recycling initiatives abound and are brimming with ingenuity.

Moored at the Guayaquil Yacht Club, in the heart of downtown Guayaquil, the Plastic Odyssey vessel welcomed entrepreneurs from the country’s biggest cities, including Quito, Manta, Cuenca and, of course, Guayaquil. The OnBoard Lab class featured a diverse range of committed profiles.

Following the launch of the program at a press conference at the Yacht Club, participants spent three days on board the vessel, alternating between discovering initiatives already encountered, debates on recycling issues and workshops on the low-tech machines on board.

Introducing the participants

Luis Villacres et JosĂ© Peña Altamirano – Novared

Launched by Luis Villacres after his departure from a steelworks, Novared began its career in scrap metal collection before making a significant change of direction. Initially specialized in the collection and resale of metals, the company has made the transition to the production of recycled plastic pellets.

Focused on collecting plastic from local bodegas, Novared has developed a complete process, including washing, crushing and pellet production, mainly from fundas and HDPE shampoo bottles. This initiative now generates a monthly output of around 200 tonnes.

However, falling prices for virgin plastic have prompted Novared to adjust its strategy. The company moved into the manufacture of finished products, finding its place in the construction sector. It now offers items such as livestock fencing, pallets and PP tiles, designed from their own recycled pellets.

The Novared story offers a fascinating perspective on a successful transition in plastic recycling. It highlights adaptability and diversification as key levers for transforming challenges into opportunities, making Novared an innovative player in a constantly evolving sector.

Juan Eduardo Centeno – Re-ciclas

A former employee of a bottled soda company, Juan Eduardo Centeno took an innovative direction in 2022 by launching Re-ciclas, an initiative to manufacture bicycle frames from recycled PET. Each frame requires 10kg of PET, and the shaping process involves a significant investment in a mold and material injection.

In the heart of his workshop, Centeno meticulously assembles each bike part, which he sells to companies or offers to partners, such as Ezequiel from The Social Project, who supply him with the raw materials. He is currently touring international trade fairs to present his project, as he did last month at an exhibition in Milan.

Jorge AndrĂ©s Moreira GarcĂ­a – Bureo

Jorge is a keen environmentalist with five years’ study in environmental engineering and natural resources, followed by a year’s specialization in climate change, carbon and water resources. A former leader in environmental activism, he led conferences and organized initiatives before merging his passion for nature with his passion for surfing, leading him to create the Manta collection center.

The collection hub, inaugurated two years ago in Manta, works in collaboration with major fishing companies to recover end-of-life PA6 multifiber nets. Certified by Bureo, this approach enables fishing companies to receive plastic credits. However, with artisanal fishermen, collection is more complex due to the flourishing second-hand market.

Jorge rents a truck to collect the nets from the tuna warehouses in Manta or Nirsa. The fillets are then cut and washed in our warehouse, before being laid out and palletized once dry. The origin of each fillet is scrupulously indicated to ensure the traceability of fillets, which are then ground and pelletized at other Bureo centers. This recycled raw material is then used by world-renowned companies such as Patagonia.

Larry Rodriguez – NFT Toys

Larry is a chemical engineer by training, who pushes the boundaries of digital art by transforming 2D NFTs into real-life figurines, designed in 3D printing and painstakingly painted by his team of 10 employees. Originally, he used special resin molds for injection molding.

Currently, Larry has set up an innovative system that cuts water bottles into printing filament, although the spools are of limited length (1.7 mm diameter 3D thread). To remedy this, he plans to acquire a small extruder to produce filament from PET.

In collaboration with Izequiel of The Social Project Foundation, Larry explores innovative recycling solutions, from making coins to using special solvents to capture hydrocarbons. His quest has also led him to experiment with a solvent for plastic-wood extrusion, illustrating his ongoing commitment to exploring sustainable ways of rethinking our relationship with plastic waste.

Victor Barahona – Madera Plastica Barahona

With three decades of experience in the industry, Victor Barahona, a seasoned industrial engineer, has charted a distinctive course by merging his know-how with his commitment to recycling. Its first forays into the manufacture of recycled plastic tubes faced economic challenges due to competition from large companies. A pivotal decision led him to specialize in Madeira Plastica (PP, HDPE, LDPE), with a strategy of selling all his production to the Timber company, which distributes his products.

This recycling visionary doesn’t just manufacture recycled products; he builds all his machines from second-hand materials. One of his ambitious projects included a diesel-powered extruder, with ingenious conversion of the fuel into gas to heat the sheath. However, this initiative was abandoned due to its inherent risks.

With a monthly production of 40 tons, future ambitions include building a sand plastic extruder inspired by the one seen on board, adding heating resistors above the plate molds, and creating a centrifuge similar to the one used on the boat.

Esteban Mauricio Huillcatanda Sacasari

Esteban is an electromechanical engineer who is orchestrating an innovative recycling project in Cuenca, focusing on the collection of plastics in schools. Driven by his curiosity and desire to learn, he took part in an incubation program, acquiring invaluable knowledge to effectively structure his initiative.

Currently, it has reached a key milestone by building a Precious Plastic shredder, illustrating its commitment to environmental sustainability and its willingness to apply solutions to local plastic waste management challenges.

Edgar Costa, Betzabe Costa, Paola Mora – Ecuaplastic

Edgar Mora is an Ecuadorian entrepreneur who has built up a recycling business over the years, bearing witness to the constant evolution of sustainable practices in the country. Since 2009, his company has been producing between 10 and 100 tonnes of flexible HDPE tubes a month, a pioneering initiative in the recycling field.

In 2013, the Tetrapak recycling milestone was reached, adding another string to the company’s bow. The following years saw developments such as the creation of structures and bridges from recycled materials, as well as the manufacture of “madera plastica” for beaches in 2020, judiciously combining bamboo and PP.

However, every sustainable business faces challenges, and the search for reliable collectors in 2011 highlighted the need for robust logistical solutions. Despite our efforts, Tetrapak recovery remains a challenge due to the complexity of consumption habits and logistics.

The company has also expanded its portfolio by creating affordable “tiendas”, offering low-cost structures from 6 to 20 m². These initiatives, coupled with the transformation of Tetrapak into “polialuminio”, highlight the pragmatic approach to recycling.

OnBoard Laboratory, our incubation program for recycling entrepreneurs

At each stopover on the expedition, the Plastic Odyssey vessel welcomes on board several local recycling entrepreneurs to exchange ideas and develop concrete solutions to combat plastic pollution.

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