Peru : The curtain falls on a packed stopover,  full of promise for the future

The Race for Water catamaran currently sailing to Valparaiso (Chile) stayed two months in Peru in order to respond to a packed two-phase programme.
The first 10-day session enabled numerous operations to be carried out, including hosting representatives and other local figures, a “Plastic Waste to Energy” workshop as well as school visits (read the full review HERE).
During the second phase over the remaining month and a half, the ACT team, whose objective is to develop plans for plastic waste value chains through energy recovery and is made up of Camille Rollin, Frédéric Sciacca and the local from the Peruvian stopover, Jimena Collantes Ortiz, has criss-crossed Peru, participating in conferences and getting involved in a whole series of meetings with those people inspired to take action for a more sustainable Peru. ANALYSIS.

EDUCATION
This is a key concern in the bid to win the fight against the plastic pollution of our environment and the Foundation is pulling out all the stops. As such, nearly 400 Peruvian children and students were welcomed aboard at the very start of the stopover, to which we must add the hundreds of people encountered during the two conferences given at the UTEC and the PUCP. Every one of them was able to head home with some concrete ideas about the small gestures that will make a difference in the struggle against plastic pollution: Refuse a plastic bag or a straw, reuse a product several times, use reusable bottles and bags, repair an object rather than change it, choose the product which has the least amount of packaging, and above all don’t throw anything away into the countryside. The idea is also about making the connection between us humans and the ocean as the source of all life on earth. Indeed, half of the world’s population depends on the ocean to live (and we know how essential ceviche is to the Peruvians!). The ocean is also our main water resource and the largest producer of our oxygen. Without the ocean we simply cannot survive, so why would we want to poison it?

Juan Alberto Wu, President of L+1, a network of social entrepreneurs committed to promoting sustainable development in Peru: “Race for Water’s time with us in Peru has inspired us to seek solutions to the problems that form part of our everyday lives today. Peruvians are privileged to live on diverse land that boasts an abundance of resources. That’s why we need to act with a greater sense of responsibility. Race for Water is a role model… The Foundation’s teams have shown us that living sustainably by combining technology and the resources naturally provided by the planet can be very much a reality. Today, we have the tools at our disposal, it’s down to us to put them to good use.”

 

WORKING WITH THE GOVERNMENT
For the first time, the ACT team has been able to spend more than two months on the ground, working with numerous decision-makers. The work with the Peruvian government began in 2016. As a result, it is entirely natural that the first event launched by this Peruvian stopover gathered together the members of COMUMA, the multi-sectional committee for environmental management. In this way, several ministries come together several times a year under the governance of the Ministry of the Environment to implement projects linked to the conservation of the environment. The most recent of these took place at the Yacht Club Peruano, the host port for our flagship vessel.

“In this way, we’ve been able to focus on the need to take things further on a legal level regarding the matter of plastic waste and the need to reduce single-use plastic,” explains Camille Rollin

She continues: “Several congressmen also came aboard, enabling us to chat directly with the people writing the latest bills about banning plastic bags. The meetings culminated in an invitation to the Congress to be part of the working group dedicated to these bills. In this way, we were able to share our comments and recommendations about their content and their implementation”.

 

And, in light of the bill very recently put forward by the MINAM, we’ve seen that our messages have been heard. The ministry is seeking to do more than introduce a blanket ban on single-use plastic bags. Straws have also got a bad press. The expanded polystyrene used for food products also forms part of the list of products to be prohibited. Finally, the desire to call for a percentage of recycled plastic in the manufacture of PET bottles shows that industry is also getting involved in the struggle against plastic pollution. Today, the MINAM is working closely with various congressmen who propose bills in a bid to draw up the final draft together, which they hope to put to the vote at the congress in the next weeks.”

And she concludes: “Since our arrival, the topic has been covered more and more by the media. Our aim is that the issue with contamination of the water and the oceans as a result of plastics will be a priority for the government. Our last meeting with the new Minister of the Environment gives us a great deal of hope for Peru.”

Marcos Alegre – Vice-Minister for the Environment: “The Race for Water initiative is highly relevant because it involves a topic that is of global concern and gets right to the heart of the problem: seeking a new environmental code of ethics, through the use of modern technology to generate energy from materials like plastic…”

ON THE GROUND

Sadly, Peru is no exception to the rule regarding the inability and/or lack of willingness on the part of local and national governments to put in place effective logistics for the collection and processing of waste, the lack of interest on the part of the manufacturers to develop sustainable and recyclable products and the lack of education among populations about how to conserve the environment and manage their waste properly. Too large a proportion of waste, plastic in particular, is left littering the streets and the countryside or is thrown directly into the waterways.

The ACT team’s primary mission is the implementation of a value chain for plastic waste, which will range from providing payment for street collectors through to the production of a locally used resource. Indeed, the Race for Water Foundation’s vision is to work at the source of plastic pollution, namely on land, in the cities close to the main waterways or oceans. The transformation of plastic waste into electricity using the ETIA’s high-temperature pyrolysis units, a solution put forward by the Foundation, translates as enabling plastic waste management to be decentralised, providing additional economic channels for street collectors and transforming an environmental problem into an additional energy resource for communities which are often vulnerable, thus limiting the amount of plastic waste thrown away, which all too often ends up spending it long life in our oceans.

As a result, the team was keen to develop a pilot scheme in Peru.

Hosting a series of meetings aboard the flagship vessel with business leaders, government entities and NGOs, two regions seem to stand out as potential candidates: Ica and Iquitos.

The ICA Region first of all, with the support of its governor, Fernando Cillóniz, whose numerous social and environmental projects demonstrate his willingness to make his region a pioneer in the matter.

Frédéric Sciacca : “From the first time we met, Fernando decided to organise a workshop aboard and invite key protagonists from Ica’s private and public sector. The vast majority of the guests accepted the invitation, even though it was sent just 72hrs before the meeting date, and they didn’t think twice about making the 4hr trip to get from Ica to the country’s capital”.

Fernando Cillóniz – Gobernador Regional of Ica: “Our visit aboard the catamaran and the presentation of the Race for Water’s initiatives have had a significant impact on the heart of the Ica region.Since the experience we shared aboard the Race for Water, the environmental commitment of the heads of the region’s management, as well as that of the entrepreneurs and city dwellers, has been further bolstered and is full of hope. A big thank you to the Race for Water teams for the message you have conveyed. We will follow your recommendations and we will make the planet the big winner.”

IQUITOS. A symbolic city on the banks of the Amazon, right in the middle of the jungle. Its remoteness further complicates the issue of waste management for a population of nearly 400,000 inhabitants, as does its method of electricity production. Some of its inhabitants from the district of Belen live in wooden houses on stilts and their way of life is dictated by the water levels in the river.

Frédéric Sciacca : “During the rainy season, they get around using a system of wooden tracks and bridges rebuilt each year according to the level the water rises to.  The management of waste, water and sanitation is inexistent. Communal toilets are made on stilts and are used by several families. It consists solely of a hole positioned between 4 planks over the river. The domestic waste is thrown directly into the Itaya River, a tributary of the Amazon, the mouth of which is just a few hundred metres away.”
A recent initiative has emerged, through the help of the NGO Ciudad Saludable and the Municipality of Belen: a boat-based collection system. In the space of just two months, you can already see the results. Today, zones that were continuously covered in waste are now virtually litter-free, inspiring many more new families to play the game, holding onto their dustbin bags until the town’s boat calls by. During the dry season, this project should enable the Municipality to partly reduce the time required to clear the waste, which is deposited on the river bed and thus covering the dried-up river bed each year.”

Only the system of bridges prevents access to certain places and the number of boats is not sufficient to cover the whole area. Furthermore, the collected waste ends up like the rest of the municipal waste collected by the town, in an uncontrolled landfill site that pollutes the soil and the groundwater and is a source of global warming.

Frédéric: “In the rest of the region, little plastic is collected due to it having no economic value. The necessary export to Lima via boats and lorries is complicated and drastically reduces the price at which a street collector can sell on the material. A local solution involves transforming plastic waste into electricity to guarantee much more stable and higher amounts of pay for the people who do a sterling and essential job in the background, albeit seldom recognised by the rest of the population.”

“Ciudad Saludable and its director Albina Ruiz Rios have been working for the past 30 years doing a remarkable job with the street collectors to give them access to social rights, supporting them in their work and giving them social recognition. They also train them in door-to-door work to educate the population about selective sorting and picking up their recyclable waste. Thank you to Carlos Enrique Aguilar Vasquez for his welcome and for his rather special tour of the city of Iquitos.”

DEPARTURE TIME APPROACHES

The Race for Water Foundation’s teams will of course remain in contact with all the different protagonists encountered along the way and they’d like to thank all the entities involved, who have helped them throughout the past two months.

“A big thank you to Mikaela Rizo-Patrón and Camila Clausen who form part of L+1, which has helped us a great deal with the organisation of this stopover and enabled some important meetings regarding project development in Peru.

The collaboration with organisations like the Ciudad Saludable and L+1 is key in project development like ours and we hope that the seeds sown during this two-month stopover will enable some great projects to grow across Peru.

We’d also like to thank Tierra y Ser for their precious contacts. This organisation has a fantastic project collecting bottle stoppers to fund wheelchairs for disadvantaged populations. It also puts a great deal of energy into education about recycling.

We must also note the support of several Municipalities including that of Magdalena, which enabled us to meet the street collectors and share a bit of their daily life.

Finally, the Yacht Club Peruano, their fabulous technical teams and the lancheros, who helped us to welcome our guests in the best possible manner and hosted our crew and its boat throughout our Peruvian stopover.

Throughout this stopover, we’ve met lots of people who are motivated to take action for a more sustainable Peru. We’ll leave Lima with the desire to take things further with them and to give concrete expression to the work initiated over the past two months.”

A FEW FIGURES

Welcomed aboard or met up with during our 2 months in Peru:
– 560 schoolchildren and students
– Nearly 230 decision-makers (politicians, NGO members, business leaders, etc.), 50 of whom participated in the “Waste to Energy” Workshops
– 45 journalists
– Nearly 400 people during the public relations evening and actions like the Beach Clean Up with the WWF.

BOUND FOR CHILE

The Race for Water catamaran has left her anchorage off the Yacht Club Peruano, near Lima, on Sunday 20 May, from where she make for Chile… and the city of Valparaiso where she is expected to make landfall in early June.

A Chilean stopover, which will be spread over nearly 3 months (5 June to 30 August), punctuated by 4 stopovers in Valparaiso, Concepcion, Juan Fernandez and, the high point, Easter Island and the project involving its development towards total self-sufficiency in collaboration with Gunter Pauli’s Fundation ZERI.

Provisional programme in Valparaiso from 6 to 17 June:
Wednesday 6 June: Arrival of the Race for Water vessel in the military port of Valparaiso
Friday 8 June: Press conference at 11:00am – World Oceans Day
Saturday 9 and Monday 11 June: Visit by schoolchildren and academics
Tuesday 12 June: “Plastic Waste to Energy” Workshop
Thursday 14 June in Santiago: Speaking Session with Gunter Pauli and Marco Simeoni
Sunday 17 June: Race for Water departs for Concepcion

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Another departure, another crew.

The Race for Water catamaran cast off on Saturday night at around midnight (Swiss Time) leaving Peru behind her after a two-month stopover. Aboard, 6 sailors (with an equal number of men and women J ). Ahead of them, 1,300 miles and the city of Valparaiso, where their ETA is around a fortnight’s time.

The low-down on the boat and crew:

Jean-Marc, you have the role of Technical Director and Ship’s Captain, the latter of which you alternate with Pascal Morizot. Do you pair up on all the posts aboard? If so, what is the reasoning?

Jean-Marc Normant: “In fact, every member of the crew works as a pair with someone else. We made this decision to guarantee there is regular rotation and thus ensure there is the possibility of replacing a member of crew if need be and also because for some, the time spent sailing is fairly long, given the duration of our Odyssey, so we need to allow for a period of rest and recuperation on land after numerous days on the ocean blue.”

Who is making up your crew on the trip from Peru to Chile?

JMN: “Aboard the boat as we set sail from Lima bound for Valparaiso, we’ll have, ladies first:

  • Anne-Laure Le Duff as second in command. Having already racked up a few miles aboard Race for Water, Anne-Laure is now very familiar with her and fulfils her role to a T.
  • Anne Le Chantoux, who is rejoining us after a well-earned holiday, is a highly efficient and versatile sailor, as well as being our official interpreter; Spanish holds no secrets for her and nor does English!
  • Margaux Chalas, who is aboard for the first time. She’ll be taking up the role of steward. Over the few days at sea that lie ahead, we’ll be able to get to know each other better.

    Then on the male side:
  • Lucas Rabiet, who isn’t part of the crew, but he may as well be; he’s a ‘must’ as a hydrogen specialist.
  • Basile Prime, our engineer. Always very busy, he ensures that all our on-board systems are maintained and goodness knows there are a lot of them on this very special boat”.

Immersion, impressions:
Margaux Chalas is the newcomer aboard and takes up the role of bursar. Having only arrived a few days before the start, Margaux has already bonded with the group. Impressions: “A new ocean. A new country. A new boat. A new team. A new post. The organisation is well-oiled, everyone knows their job and the division of roles is just right. The shore teams have done a massive amount of work preparing her and you can feel that. Coming into a crew, which has been on site for several weeks means you can more easily get your bearings! I haven’t discovered even 1/10th of all the bilges, hiding places and stowage aboard Race for Water, so that’s one of my next personal missions! The jobs list is endless and that’s the delight of life aboard, you never get bored on a boat, there’s always something to do! We’re beginning to cast our minds forward to the Transpac (TransPacific), a major logistical stage. Fortunately, there will have been some time to get some training in during this fortnight of sailing en route to Chile. It will give me the necessary hindsight to prepare myself fully for the coming months. In any case, I’m delighted to finally be here. I’ve been hopping with impatience for months at the idea of getting started. I was stuck at school this winter dreaming of balmier climes! J

The sea and the navigation aspect:
The Foundation’s boat will likely bend her trajectory around a little. Indeed, a direct route would certainly be shorter but it would take her through significant amounts of cloud cover, which is visible on the grib files. Added to that, the wind on the nose along the coastal zone will be weaker there than it is offshore. Another factor in this sector is the Humboldt current. It’s a surface ocean current, orientated from south to north, which will be against us and more substantial inshore than offshore.

Jean-Marc Normant, Captain of the ship describes the leg: “Our trajectory will be the result of a balance between the clouds, the wind and the current on the one hand and the sunshine and the boat’s performance on the other.”

Race for Water and her crew are expected into the military port of Valparaiso in early June.

Eve of the departure in Lima…

On the eve of the Race for Water catamaran’s departure from Peru, the crew is busying itself to make sure everything’s ready for tomorrow when they leave the anchorage off the Yacht Club de Peruano.

A dense two-month stopover, rich with encounters, which we offer you a chance to experience via some of the images from our reporter Peter Charaf!

Happy viewing!

Lake Titicaca and its floating islands, the Uros Islands, as witnessed by Peter Charaf, our photographer – Account.

Lake Titicaca is the highest expanse of navigable water in the world. It stretches across Peru and Bolivia and spans 190km in length and 80km wide, at an altitude of 3,812m. The cradle of the Inca people, it represents an important historical heritage for this region’s peoples. Its name derives from a rock situated on the Isla Del Sol (Island of the Sun) in the Bolivian sector of the lake. This rock, called Titi Khon’Ka in the Aymara language, is the rock of the puma. Its 1,125km shoreline embraces 25 rivers, which supply it with water, of course, but also… plastic.

If you look at the cycle of waste, you understand that the closer you get to the sea, the more the rivers are saturated with plastic. Conversely, you might hope that at an altitude of close to 4,000m, watercourses would be clear and free from any plastic. Alas not at all… The city of Puno, on the lake’s Peruvian shore, with its 120,000 inhabitants and its numerous tourists, generates a quantity of waste that it is unable to absorb. The lake is a major asset for the tourist industry. The whole region is flooded with illicit waste; every roadside, every river… As a result, the lake is also colonised by this modern-day scourge. Here, like everywhere else in the world, it seems that the turn of the third millennium has been punctuated by a profound acceleration of plastic pollution; as if overnight it had sprung up out of the ground like a mushroom.

Since it has been unable to equip itself with a waste treatment programme that is up to the challenge and it has failed to provide solutions for daily collections, the local authorities in Bolivia, aware of the problem, have developed signage aimed at alerting the population. This ranges from signs prohibiting the dumping of rubbish to other more philosophical methods, through to powerful messages like “La basura mata” (garbage kills). You can even find notices to inform that invite witnesses of polluting actions to act as responsible citizens.

 

Unfortunately, these initiatives, whether they’re aimed at raising awareness or cracking down on criminal behaviour, haven’t been successful. Solely the implementation of collection and waste treatment circuits could impede the exponential growth of illicit waste.

Recycling and solar energy in the Uros

The history of the Uros people is coloured by self-imposed exile to escape the Inca invader among others. In the 13th century, they chose to emigrate to Lake Titicaca by building floating islands made of reed. The islands float, but they are tied down with ropes to Eucalyptus trunks so they don’t drift away.

Since that time, the tradition of the floating islands has endured. The Uros people disappeared around the 1950s and today there are around 2,000 Aymaras who are perpetuating the tradition. Roughly every fortnight, a new layer of reed is added to each island to compensate for their erosion.


 

The main source of income for inhabitants of the Uros islands is tourism. For a few bolivianos, visits are organised from the city of Puno. After around 30 minutes on the water, you can set foot on the moving ground and be greeted by the president of the island. Each island has its own president. He is in charge of explaining to tourists the archipelago’s history and the building technique used. As soon as I arrived on the island, I noticed that the bench on which I was offered a seat was a mixture of plaited reed and PET bottles…!

Eloy, the president of the island, explained to me that for some years they’ve been using the plastic bottles as floats. Of course, they haven’t replaced reed, but they have been lodged   at the heart of the braiding, increasing the buoyancy whilst retaining the traditional aspect of the reed. The integration of PET bottles reduces the amount of waste that has to be shipped back to Puno.

 

Since 2015, they have even made these bottles a key element of the structure of their ancestral puma-headed boats. Eloy’s boat contains 4,000 bottles. They float better, age less quickly and can be made faster. It’s not certain that it’s good news for the lake, but it is proof of how traditions adapt and evolve.

Something else caught my eye. The majority of the small reed houses have a source of electricity provided by solar panels, a gift from the government. That made me think about our boat; like us they float and they use the energy from the sun. Here though, the veneration of the sun is ancestral. The temple of the sun and the island of the sun remain hallowed sites in Inca mythology. The heavenly light is a source of both energy and inspiration, as well as one of the factors that contributes to the degradation of illicit plastic in our environment…

Indeed, the island of the sun and its little sister the island of the moon are real tourist magnets. You get there from the village of Copacabana on the Bolivian shore. Two highly symbolic sites in Inca history, they are having to take up the challenge presented by the vast quantities of waste generated by the tourist industry. Plastic floats along the shores and they burn what they can at the bottom of their gardens. Here too a few signs are dotted about to remind us that human ignorance has a tendency to destroy nature’s beauty.

Raising awareness is a job we do relentlessly at every step of our journey around the world. It’s a key mainstay in our action with the general public (Share), which enables us to share what we have observed (Learn) for years through the Odyssey programme. It’s also a necessary prerequisite for the action we carry out (Act) in a bid to stem the incessant flow of plastics towards the ocean, by putting forward a solution aimed at transforming it into energy.

Our stopovers in Peru (March to May) and Chile (June and July) aim to develop the network which will, we hope, enable us to improve the situation in these two countries in terms of plastic waste pollution.”

Text and illustrations by Peter Charaf