Waste management volunteering in Peru

Lauren Ilyas, Environmental Scientist in our London office, is travelling to Lobitos in North West Peru to undertake a three month volunteering project focusing on solid waste management. In October she will join EcoSwell, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) specialised in promoting sustainable development and improving the quality of life of local people in Lobitos, in light of climate change and global economic challenges.

Lobitos has a population of around 1,650 people, where approximately 27% of the population live in poverty and 14% live in extreme poverty. It was once a thriving town for the petroleum industry and its employees, but fell into disrepair following a change of government and the nationalisation of the petroleum industry in the 1970s.

The recent development of tourism along the Lobitos coastline has pushed up the prices of property, land and basic amenities and as such, EcoSwell aims to ensure the local people positively benefit from the rapid growth in the local economy. EcoSwell takes a ‘shared-value’ approach working together with private, public, academic sectors and other NGOs to come up with relevant and lasting sustainable solutions.

Lauren aims to get the solid waste management project off the ground. Waste management is not high on the local authority’s agenda; there is a household collection system in place whereby rubbish bags are collected and taken to an ‘unregulated dump’. This ‘dump’ is located in a dry forest, which is a rich natural ecosystem with a known presence of endemic species of flora and endangered species of bird, and is damaging to the wildlife. This project requires education related initiatives alongside technical solutions.

Together with the team in Peru, Lauren plans to design and roll out a waste segregation, recycling and compositing scheme for the town. As part of the project, Lauren will explore the existing market for recycled goods in the area, trial the use of bricks made from recycled plastics instead of existing expensive construction materials, and collaborate with local waste management initiatives. Lauren also aims to investigate the unregulated landfill (“dump”) and subsequently put together a bespoke treatment options appraisal that can be presented to the local authority.

For this project, Lauren will visit local schools and educate the younger generations on the importance of waste management, hold regular public consultations with the local residents and meet with the local council to engage them with the project. The final goal of Lauren’s project is to gain the approval of the local authority and for them to take forward the scheme. All of this will need to be carried out in Spanish and this is going to be quite the challenge for her!

In the months leading up to her trip, Lauren has been fundraising for the charity through various activities including a pub quiz and a Peruvian themed evening in a brewery in East London.

If you want to learn more about her volunteering experience, please get in touch with Lauren or follow her on Twitter @lauren_ilyas, which she will be regularly updating with day to day activities and her progress.