The circular economy against poverty

Posted on 15 September 2020.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the En-Haccore soup kitchen uses the circular economy as a weapon to fight poverty. Urban composting and a biodigester turns food waste

We can take care of the environment by improving people's quality of life and making it easier for them to access energy and healthy food

In Argentina, some 3 million people live in shantytowns. In 2017, one of these shantytowns saw a minor revolution when an environmentally friendly project was set up. It all began in 1993 with the creation of a soup kitchen in Ciudad Oculta, a poor neighborhood in the capital Buenos Aires.

Twenty-seven years later, from Monday to Friday the En-Haccore association still distributes meals in the neighborhood to some 300 people. But now there’s something extra-special: it incorporates the circular economy into its approach thanks to the support of the Centre for Local Government Sustainability (CeSus)

Among other things it has installed a solar thermal system, which transforms solar energy into heat. In this poor district of the city, where there is no connection to natural gas pipelines, it not only means people need to buy fewer gas bottles but also increases their access to energy.

The waste produced by the soup kitchen is used to produce compost for the association's roof garden. Waste also feeds the biodigester, which transforms organic waste into biogas, meaning less energy used for cooking.
«We were overwhelmed by the waste, because the garbage dumpsters don't always come here. [This biodigester] is a dream come true», said Bilma Acuña, the creator of the soup kitchen in Ciudad Oculta, talking to the Inter Press Service news agency.

A collection point for used cooking oil has also been set up in the shanty town. A foundation regularly collects it to make biodiesel. Generally speaking, the project launched by En-Haccore aims to reproduce the way nature works - but in the heart of the city.

Circular economy training workshops

« We can take care of the environment by improving people's quality of life and making it easier for them to access energy and healthy food», said Gonzalo del Castillo, who heads the CeSus initiative.

The experimental project therefore includes local residents’ involvement in training workshops. Alejandra Pugliese told the IPS news agency that attending urban gardening workshops has changed her way of looking at things: « I now know that it’s possible to improve my quality of life, even with few resources, by connecting to natural cycles.»
In the future, CeSus hopes to see this circular approach applied to the whole of Buenos Aires, so that the city becomes a true ecosystem.