For many, Bahia Ballena is paradise – beautiful beaches, an abundance of wildlife and Costa Rica’s oldest marine national park. This area offers us so much, so what do we give it in return?
For the past couple of years the answer has been trash. A walk down the streets or even along the beach in the national park, meant broken glass, wrappers or plastic bottles at every turn. More than just unsightly, this trash affects the ecosystem in and beyond the town, with Costa Rica’s heavy rainfalls pushing litter from the streets to the rivers, and ultimately into Marino Ballena National Park and the ocean.
The community of Bahia Ballena identified it was time to take action, and enlisted Geoporter help to mitigate the situation. During the first few months of the year, since 2012, various community members have given up two hours every Friday morning to collect trash. The collection is highly organized; every twenty-four square meters falls under a specific GPS point location, and the trash collected in the region is sorted into sixteen categories, ranging from batteries to plastic bags.
The collections helped raise awareness of the trash problem among the community, so why use GPS to map the trash? Geoporter’s goal is to use the information gained from geospatial technologies to change the collective community sentiment around an issue. Information is the first step towards education, which can then lead to a communal change in attitudes toward keeping the community clean. With trash, mapping its presence provided hard data even the most cynical could not refute. Mapping added further benefits – using GIS to map the locations and types of trash allowed the community to uncover areas with the greatest amount of trash, and understanding the types of trash in each location also helped shed light on the demographic of those doing the littering. Are they candy wrappers from kids? Cigarette butts from bar-hoppers?
With the trash maps created, the community is taking steps to make a difference: new trash and recycling centers have been installed in “hotspot” areas, which previously had no disposal facilities. The community knows who they need to talk with in these areas, and who can take specific responsibility to mitigate the trash in Bahia.
Together the community is making Bahia Ballena a more beautiful and environmentally friendly place to live, next to the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Marino Ballena National park. The mapping of street trash is only the beginning to making our streets cleaner, and are waters free of debris.