By Nuri Max Steinmann.
Andrea Lema is an young Ecuadorian activist fighting for the rights of nature in her home country. She studied economics and has a master’s degree on environmental and sustainable development. She is the founder of the NGO ‘PlastiCo. Project’, which aims to reduce single-use plastic and promotes the implementation of zero waste models at different scales in Ecuador. She is also an ambassador for the global NGO ‘5gyres’.
Hi Andrea! It seems like more and more people starting to recognize the problems associated with plastic pollution and climate change. How is the situation in your home country Ecuador?
In Ecuador plastic pollutions is visible. People are now talking about it, but not everyone understands the extent of the problem. There is a huge gap in terms of education and available information about these issues.
“I started living zero waste little by little, and with this came the need to share it with more people.”
Have you seen a change in the levels of plastic pollution and its impact on the environment in Ecuador over the last years?
Yes, it has increased. Recently, I visited a beach I used to go with my family when I was younger, and now, I found it all covered in microplastics. It was a huge disappointment considering it is not a very touristic place.
You founded the local NGO ‘PlastiCo. Project’, which fights plastic pollution in Ecuador. What was your motivation and inspiration to start this project?
There were many things that inspired me to start this NGO. First of all, it was my passion for the ocean and nature. Secondly, it was the need to match my career with my everyday life. It didn’t make sense to work in conservation and yet have a life that did not contribute to that. Thirdly, it was the frustration I felt, when I realized the amount of trash we produce and the lack of alternatives we found in the market. I started living zero waste little by little, and with this came the need to share it with more people. So, myself together with a friend started PlastiCo. Project.
What do you want to achieve with PlastiCo. in the future? Do you have certain goals you would like to reach?
We have two main objectives. The first is to motivate people to reduce their plastic consumption and to act for governments and industries to make more sustainable products and packaging. The second is to promote the implantation of zero waste models at different levels, so this could be from a family going zero waste at their home to a corporation changing their practices to reduce or eliminate their waste.
“We can see the impacts of climate change clearly, we see our glaciers melting and our rivers drying more and more every year.”
Do you have hope, that one day, the problem of plastic pollution will be solved in Ecuador or even in entire South America?
I don’t see it happening unless global action is taken. A lot of the plastic trash we found here are produced in other countries. Most of the corporations, of which we found packaging polluting our environment, are not from our country and although I think we are much closer to be able to live in a more sustainable way than other countries, I also see the big influence that the global north has on our society.
What other major environmental challenges are you facing in Ecuador?
We can see the impacts of climate change clearly; we see our glaciers melting and our rivers drying more and more every year. We are one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the first ones to recognise nature’s right on our constitution, but yet we have relied on an extractives economic system.
What do you feel are the most important things or habits we have to change to turn things around?
We definitely have to be more responsible on the way we consume and dispose our products. I think we need to adopt a circular economic model where products are not designed to end up in a landfill. For now, I think we can make very simple changes like choosing to buy package free products and use reusable items.
It is 2050 – What is Andrea Lima doing, how will Ecuador look like and will PlastiCo. still exist?
I will be 57 and if things don’t change, I think the world I know today will be completely different, I don’t see how can I live in a clean and healthy planet by then if we don’t start to take action now.
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