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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Approaching Chile’s circular economy transition

The current linear productive system and its impacts on the environment are reaching unprecedented levels. The circular economy framework provides an alternative model which aims at minimizing the environmental impacts by eliminating waste. The challenge lies in translating these theoretical principles to practice - especially due to its highly context-dependent nature- as well as focusing on the most effective strategies which yield the best outcomes beyond circularity on its own, but rather towards sustainable development.

Chile has recently started its journey to reduce waste, making it essential to start on the right path. Therefore, this study aims at approaching the country’s transition, particularly in Municipal Solid Waste, identifying - through a systemic perspective - the opportunities and barriers within its deployment and how can they adapt better to the country’s unique context. The latter is done by combining public reports, academic literature, and semi-structured interviews to build a causal loop diagram to identify the most impactful levers, and how can they be addressed.

The results show the existence of several barriers at all levels. The main barriers are economic, regulatory, political, educational, and systemic, and are a reflection of an obsolete system, poor planning approaches and misplaced incentives. Additionally, it was found that the pursuit for circularity, apart from benefiting the SDGs frequently related to the circular economy, has the potential to influence the SDGs rarely associated with circularity, which are among the most critical to Chile’s SD agenda. This can be achieved if additional metrics and goals are incorporated alongside the already established ones.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.