Enel Distribución installs first recycled utility poles in Chile thanks to groundbreaking Circular Economy project

Published on Wednesday, 4 May 2022

  • The electric power company is the first in the country to produce this type of electricity infrastructure, which is made from 45% recycled material. Over the course of 2022, Enel plans to deploy 500 of these poles.
  • Enel Distribución plans to recycle more than 4,600 tonnes of concrete and 240 tonnes of steel from disused poles that are scrapped annually from the national energy grid and, in so doing, promote the circular economy.


Santiago, 04 May 2022. As part of Recycling Month, Enel Distribución has launched the country's first project to install utility poles that reuse waste materials. This is a groundbreaking initiative for the industry which aims to recycle more than 4,600 tonnes of concrete and 240 tonnes of steel annually. This year alone, the company will erect 500 poles in different parts of its concession area that are made from recycled aggregate materials.

The new poles were unveiled this morning at an event held in the Cerro Navia district attended by Mayor Mauro Tamayo and the CEO of Enel Distribución, Ramón Castañeda.

The company is the first in the industry to manufacture this type of infrastructure, which is made from 45% recycled material. Power poles play a fundamental role in energy distribution throughout the city, but are nevertheless exposed to different hazards that can render them useless, such as collisions or weather events, Whatever the case may be, their materials end up as waste.

In fact, every year Enel Distribución disposes of approximately 4,000 utility poles, which are decommissioned and transferred for final disposal in an authorized landfill. 

Faced with this situation, and in keeping with its circular economy strategy, the company developed a pioneering program aimed at giving concrete a second life through recycling and using it to manufacture new poles or stabilized inputs. Installation of the first recycled poles first began in 2020 as part of an innovation competition held by the Enel Group.

"We are proud to have become the first electric power company to start manufacturing utility poles using recycled material while adhering to the principles of the circular economy in the process. This goal of the project is to reduce industrial waste by recovering disused materials and using them to manufacture new infrastructure. We hope this will be a scalable program so that we can continue to take concrete steps towards carbon neutrality and sustainable production," said Enel Distribución's CEO Ramón Castañeda.

The process of recycling concrete begins with collecting and stockpiling poles removed from the energy grid. The concrete is separated from the steel reinforcement and crushed to a specific granulometry that is then used as one of the materials for manufacturing the poles, which contain 45% recycled aggregates. The Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile's (Dictuc) Scientific and Technological Research Center carried out tests and analysis that helped determine the quality of the materials and the correct proportion to be used in manufacturing the recycled poles.

This initiative is in keeping with Enel Distribución's environmental vision and its constant drive for continuous improvement and enhanced environmental performance. By transforming more of its waste materials into circular ones, the company is avoiding the disposal of 5,000 tonnes of concrete per year while reducing consumption of virgin aggregates from quarries and rivers (gravel and sand), which make up 77% of the materials used to make new utility poles.

The recycled poles offer the same capacity and durability as traditional ones, undergoing the same testing and certifications processes, and are able to withstand low and medium voltage electrical networks, remote controlling and transformers. They also have a useful life of up to 20 years. This new project demonstrates that it is possible to achieve the circularity of materials and reincorporate them into new life cycles, while meeting all the quality, sturdiness and safety standards required for electricity distribution.