BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL

Colombia 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Pedro Gutierrez, General Manager of Aseo Urbano de la Costa, on its focus on innovation, its commitment to sustainability, and working with communities.

Pedro Gutierrez
BIOGRAPHY
Pedro Gutierrez is the General Manager of Aseo Urbano de la Costa. He has a wealth of experience in planning, direction, and control of projects in the private and public sectors.

What have been the main developments of Aseo Urbano de la Costa since its creation?

Aseo Urbano de la Costa belongs to the SALA Group, which is made up of 20 companies that began operating 22 years ago to provide environmental solutions in water and waste. Our company was established in Cartagena in 2006. We are in charge of the collection, transport, and final disposal of waste. Since 2006, one of our main developments has been to expand the coverage of our services to 48.5% of the continental part of Cartagena de Indias and to 100% of the insular zone. There was no such service in these islands, so one of our greatest achievements was to reach this area. There is no regulation in Colombia for the collection of waste in this area, even after having been in the market for 12 years. However, we provide our service there even when it sometimes takes us six hours to arrive and six hours to return. When we provide a service, innovation must go beyond the standards that impose limits. In Colombia, these standards do not grow along with real needs. At first, people were skeptical; now, the government has adopted the service using containers that allow the temporary storage of the waste before its final disposal.

How is Aseo Urbano de la Costa committed to creating a better environment for Colombia?

The provision of a public service in Colombia must be updated in accordance with global trends and economic growth. We make innovations focused on the environment that generate benefits and wellbeing both for the community and our staff. Our employees have grown from 220 to 730, all with labor rights. On the other hand, because we are a solid company in the market, we do not require subcontracted personnel. The company is committed to the use of waste. In Colombia, we only recycle 17%. We collect 18,000 tons of waste annually in Cartagena de Indias, which is only 48.5% of the continental part of the city, and we take advantage of 2.6%. We need to raise awareness among generators to reduce the amount of unusable waste that is disposed in landfills and increase the percentage of usable waste. We are working with the exploitation program in our area of service provision. We hire experts in the field to educate ourselves about the physical and chemical characteristics of the waste generated so we can be more sustainable from the environmental point of view.

Have you considered expanding your operations to bigger cities like Bogotá?

As a company, we have a presence in Bogotá with a provision of non-regulated services. In Colombia, there are two types of waste collection services: regulated, which are oriented to households, and unregulated, which are related to private entities. We are the first business group in Colombia that performs the collection of hazardous and hospital waste. We provide portable cleaning services in Cúcuta, Villa del Rosario, Los Patios, Cali, Pasto, Mocoa, Yopal, Aguachica, and Cesar through some of the companies that belong to the group.

How do you work with local communities?

The success of our work is measured by social work. We have a social management area that focuses on communities. In Cartagena, in the area we serve, we work together with a team of 12 people. In Colombia, a company cannot succeed if it does not have a social team that measures the impact of the actions developed in education and environmental campaigns. This applies even more to us because we provide our services to communities where 85% belong to socioeconomic strata 1, 2, and 3. We carry out intensive educational work with educational institutions, community leaders, foundations, industrial, residential, and commercial clients with the objective to make users aware of the separation in the source, storage, and presentation of waste.