This Circular Economy Mission (CEM), organized by DG ENVI was the fourth one, after the missions in Chile, China, and South Africa, aiming to increase the cooperation between EU and Colombia on environmental issues through a political dialogue that allows for an exchange of good practices and experiences.
In the mission, led by DG Environment Director General Daniel Calleja, over 60 European representatives of companies, associations – business and international ones (UNIDO), etc. participated. Oscar Martin Riva, the CEO of Ecoembes and member of EXPRA’s Board of Directors and Monika Romenska, R&PA Manager of EXPRA took part in the mission.

The mission visited two cities in Colombia: Medellin and the capital – Bogota. The intense program included meetings with Colombian businesses in both cities as well as with academia and visits to a general waste facility and warehouse/baling plant for separately collected packaging waste. Matchmaking events between European and local entrepreneurs were also organized, providing them with the opportunity to engage in exchange of views promoting green solutions through business partnerships.

EC Environment Director General Daniel Calleja underlined that this is the first mission of the European Union that is organized in Colombia with companies and associations from 14 countries with the main objective to increase cooperation between the EU and Colombia on environmental issues to face the challenges together and seek “green solutions” through agreements. EC Director General Calleja also noted that the EU wants to establish a political dialogue on the environment with Colombia in order to have an exchange of good practices and EU regulatory experiences. Calleja also pointed out the importance of maximizing resources and minimizing waste, considering that the “recycle, reuse and reduce” formula can lead to a “zero waste society”. The timing of the CEM was chosen respectively considering that Colombia maintains a trade agreement with the EU block since August 2013 and the opportunities for more sustainable activities provided under the ongoing peace process.

Oscar Martin, CEO of Ecoembes, presented the benefits of CE/EPR based on the over 20 years of experience of Ecoembes, and especially the unique project – The CircularLab and the numerous innovative projects being currently implemented in the Rioja region, covering the whole cycle from the production to the collection and recycling of packaging waste. In his statement, Mr. Martin underlined that all policies regarding (packaging) waste management should be based on solid research work and LCA thus guarantying the best solutions from environmental, social and economic point of view.

Currently in the Colombia the industry and the government are discussing introducing EPR, a sphere where EXPRA and its members could provide assistance. The specific situation in the country is that there is no well functioning waste management/treatment system and after the peace agreement and the successul fight against the drug cartels, a huge number of people had to find a way to earn their living and currently do so by informal waste picking. Recently there has been a court decision, stating that informal waste sector has proirity in the access to (recycable) waste. In addition, in the draft legislation regualting EPR there are so far no responsibilities (respectively targets) for local authorities. It should be noted that there are some trials to introduce ReverseVending Maschines for PET bottles, mainly by young entreupeneurs, using different incentives including via mobile phone applications. Still, during the discussions in the Univercity EAFIT, it was clear that the business understands that this is an expensive partial solution only for a very small part of PW. During the event “Circular Economy: Opportunities for all”, EXPRA presented the beliefs of the organizaton for successful EPR implementation and its major contribution to achieving genuine circular economy.