Solar Frontier announced recently it has provided the solar panels for a solar energy system to Projecto YOSI, an organization working to keep Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni clean and promote sustainable tourism in the region. Projecto YOSI will use the solar energy system, consisting of 40 solar panels, to power a device that changes plastic waste into petroleum, helping to address the growing problem of litter in the area. And it is doing so with the help of the local community.
Salar de Uyuni are the world’s largest salt flats. The area is also among the flattest places in the world with ground level differences no bigger than 50 centimeters. So when a thin film of water collects on top of the vast salt deposits during the rainy season, the flooded plains turn into an ethereal and beautiful sight. Some call it the “Sky Mirror”, as the vast and undisturbed surface of water reflects back the sun, sky and clouds.The Uyuni Salt Flats are today a popular sightseeing spot, attracting around 1.2 million visitors to Bolivia every year. But with few facilities to deal with waste, the salt flats are also accumulating litter. This is impacting the living standards of local communities, the quality of the salt collected from the salt flat and the view of the landscape.
In a bid to address this problem, a Japanese tour guide launched Projecto YOSI and, over time, gained the support of the local government and academic institutions. Yoshihito Honma, today representing the organization, has spent the last seven years leading tours across South America. He decided to raise awareness about this issue after personally witnessing the growing amount of litter lying across the region. As a first demonstrative step, he has introduced a small-sized device that can break down plastic waste into petroleum – and is powering it with solar energy. Yoshihito’s efforts garnered little interest among locals at first. But with time, they too have become more involved. Some even bring in plastic waste from their homes. Projecto YOSI has since gained wider recognition in Bolivia, including from the Ministry of Environment, municipal governments, universities and other organizations.
In January 2016, it featured in the Bolivian Ministry of Environment’s booth at the Rallye Dakar. Yoshihito now also serves as a visiting lecturer on environmental issues at the University of San Andrés (IIAT: Applied Technology Investigation Institute) and as a supervisor for a joint project with the Ministry of Environment. Aiming to boost environmental awareness, he is undertaking activities in the hope of even establishing Bolivia’s first recycling facilities. “I dream that the Uyuni Salt Flats will one day be recognized as a model for sustainable tourism and environmental protection. I believe the first step is to set up activities that will protect the environment. To that end, it’s important that we can establish a recycling system that is locally led, and so we have introduced a machine that will turn plastic waste into petroleum – using solar energy,” said Yoshito Honma.
“The solar panels that we have chosen are among the most environmentally friendly, and even in harsh environmental conditions, have demonstrated stable power generation.” Yoshihiro Ishikawa, Manager of the Global Business Planning Division at Solar Frontier, says, “We believe this kind of opportunity helps customers think about what solar energy can really achieve. We’re very grateful if projects such as these – using a device powered by clean, solar energy to turn waste into petroleum – will help raise public awareness.” Solar Frontier works with a wide range of partners in the hope that solar energy will provide a cleaner, more comfortable lifestyle for everyone.