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Monday, March 4, 2013 | La Paz - Santa Cruz

La Paz lies in the middle of the Andes at an altitude of between 3100 to 4100 metres above sea level. The streets are so steep that the clutch immediately protested by overheating. The city itself was afflicted by the endless stop-go traffic that seems to be a common feature of Latin American cities. Actually, stop-go is a bit of an exaggeration, our progress being more like a succession of hill starts in our 4 ton vehicle. Before we reach La Paz itself we have to negotiate the fast-growing urban centre of El Alto, where we come to a grinding halt. A strike has been called by the transport union and they have blocked all the roads with huge boulders. Fortunately we have a Plan B. We head off over the fields, bumping our way over unpaved side roads with potholes as deep as beer crates, all in an attempt to avoid the main roads. Our objective is simple: to ensure we have enough clearance under the vehicle to prevent any nasty mishaps. We have more than a few queasy moments as the Editourmobil emits some ominous noises from its innards.

Labels and plastic films for pouches running through the printing presses

But back to business: in La Paz, we have three interesting appointments. First off, Ecovecindarios, an initiative of swisscontact (Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation, a not-for-profit organisation). They are currently involved in a programme to persuade the population in Bolivia of the benefits of separating waste matter. One of the building blocks is the collection of PET bottles.

Our next stop is at Industrias Lara Bisch, one of the leading label producers in Bolivia. In addition to the labels, they produce printed plastic films for the packaging industry. What we learn here we would have been able to see at first hand in any supermarket. Bolivia is the home of pouch packaging. Washing powder, coffee, milk, yogurt, water, you name it, and you’ll find it neatly sealed in a plastic pouch.

Our third and final appointment of the day is with Pepsi licensee CBN. CBN is the largest brewery in Bolivia. Although beer consumption remains unspectacular at 33l/per capita, the CSD sector is experiencing steady growth.

The interviews over, we gird up our loins for the next stage of our journey, some 1000kms across the Andes to Santa Cruz, and the very different environment of the tropical rainforest.

Ibo Blazicevic, General Director, CBN (right), Cristina Montilla, Director, CSD (left) and Laura Ugalde, Marketing Assistant (extreme left) discussing with Alexander Büchler and Rolf (both PETplanet) the soft drink market in Bolivia.