The B side of the plastics that pollute the ocean of Patagonia

March 06, 2019

In the surroundings of the Puelo River, in the commune of Cochamó, Pedro Rubio usually goes in search of plastics that pollute the coast of the Reloncaví Estuary. He collect bottles, fishing nets and ropes that arrive with the tide and gives them an interesting use. Pedro is one of the rural entrepreneurs that is part of our team, he is in charge of collecting and delivering the waste that we turn into innovative glasses. The glasses are made with a new technology that allows any Nylon 6 plastics (including fishing nets and ropes) to be transformed into pellet which later become Kurün eyewear.

Most companies use a linear and extractive production process, were the termination of their product will be additional waste to our earth and they use a low grade purpose which reduces the value of the material. This complicates the reuse possibilities of the material in a third life. This is far from the 100% circular and regenerative model of production that Karün uses. By upcycling littered plastics we seek to regenerate natural ecosystems, reactivate local economies and seek to involve people as a key part in all areas of Karün, from the rural entrepreneurs to our non-hierarchicaly built team.

Here is Pedro Rubio, a rural entrepreneur who has dedicated the las 14 years to pick up the trash that pollute his home. He started as an employee of the Municipality of Cochamó, who hired him to pick up the garbage from the streets, he even had to collect the plastics that reached the edge of the Estuary of Reloncaví. Now, it is used as raw material to make our sunglasses from recycled plastic waste.

“I´m a person that loves nature that’s all”, Pedro tells us in 2004 When he was still picking up trash for the municipality. “Without being ashamed I did it, because you do not have to be ashamed to work. I was a pioneer in cleaning streets, because no one else did it. My wife was asked why I was picking up and cleaning the streets, but finally one is cleaning what one loves, your commune, your planet”. Pedro assured that it was that job that prompted him to learn more about recycling and the environment.

Some years later, in 2007, an opportunity arises for him to attend the First Regional Congress of Environment organized by CONAMA in Llanquihue, where he participated in different workshops and learned about recycling, conservation, water pollution and composting. He took what he learned and implemented it in his own home -where he created a worm compost with Californian worms and where he recycled his organic waste-, and he shared it with his community promoting sustainability initiatives such as the recycling project that was implemented a few years ago in the rural school by Puelo river where the establishment went on to revive a Green Flag that credits its commitment to the environment.

Today Pedro efforts are focused primarily on the oceanic pollution through the work that he realizes with us. His routine is to get in his small truck and head to the Reloncaví Estuary. There awaits a walk along the coast where he collects the plastics that reach the shore: bottles, ropes, fishing nets, and other things. He explains, "You  are cleaning and right after the shore is already contaminated because fisheries and farmers are not worried about how they tie their nets, the same boat that live in the community contaminate because they are just unaware". Pedro, who 36 years ago went to live in Puelo, Cochamó remembers that garbage was not a problem as it is today. He explains, "you could walk a bare foot on the shore and the only thing that you would find was wood sticks, and other things that nature would leave on the shore with high tides.” He remarks, “caring for the planet is something different and good for the people who live here, so that it can be the way it was before”.

The fish nets, ropes and other plastics that he accumulates in a container that are kept on the beach like many other containers on the beaches meant for responsible fish farmers to use to clean up their fish nets. Much of this waste he collects for Karun, he puts there as the materials will later become sunglasses made from these recycled plastics.

Sunglasses made of recycled plastics

 We are a Chilean B coorparation that produces high quality sunglasses using noble, natural and/or recycled materials from the south of the country. This summer we just launched a new collection called Pacific, in addition to presenting a new technology we are using, it allows us to bring 6 different colors to 5 new model designs all inspired by nature.

The production process, which uses new ECONYL® recycling technology give us the ability to recycle any type of Nylon 6 plastic that is collected from the sea. It begins with the cleaning process and selection of materials that are later sent to Slovenia, where they are transformed into pellets through a chemical recycling process. "A regenerative process that allows us to depolymerize the plastic chain and the polymerize it again, resulting in a material with the same properties of the virgin plastic and with the particularity of making the recycling of our products infinite", explains Bárbara Toledo, in charge of research and development in Karün.

Thomas Kimber, the founder of Karün affirms that "the technology allows our product to be recycled, recreated and remodeled again and again, without ever losing its high quality and technical properties. Also, it gives the possibility of recycling to a wider variety of plastic waste from the waters of Patagonia”.

However, this initiative not only seeks to reuse waste, but also aims to involve local entrepreneur communities in the area of Puelo and Cochamó, as  in the case of Pedro Rubio. "They are trained through the social organization called Balloon Latam so that the resources they receive are well used in their ventures so they can create their own business that becomes more sustainable over time," explains Giannina Guerra, in charge of Marketing. “We generate a product with a lot of value through waste, helping the environment and empowering rural communities," says Giannina.

Pedro Rubio tell us that the income that he earns through his work with us, collecting plastics, not only contributes to the livelihood of his family, but also he invests in his wife, Rosa González, with her entrepreneurship. Rosa, who is part of the entrepreneurs supported by Balloon Latam in Cochamó, makes homemade and healthy empanadas to sell. 

“My wife has excellent cooking skills, she cooks good and healthy meals. She makes healthy empanadas with spinach dough stuffed with mushrooms, cheese and peppers and other with chocolate and raspberry. It’s new for people. With what I earn with the recycling, I will support her with that. I'm making a restaurant for her”, says Pedro.

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