Desechos y Reciclaje en Costa Ballena || Trash and Recycling in Costa Ballena

One group's recyclable materials, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

One group’s recyclable materials, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

¿A dónde va basura de Costa Ballena? ¿Puedo reciclar?

El Proyecto Calles Limpias, Aguas Limpias de Geoporter, ha estado mapeando la basura en las calles y  las playas desde el año 2012. Con esta información, las acciones han sido tomadas por varios negocios y organizaciones comunitarias para prevenir la basura entren en nuestras calles y en última instancia nuestros océanos.

Queríamos saber más sobre de dónde nuestra basura va y lo que ocurre con los materiales reciclables cuando son mezclados con la basura. Compartimos aquí lo que hemos aprendido de nuestro reciente viaje a la Municipalidad de Osa y el relleno sanitario, donde nuestra basura semanal va. Nosotros le enviaremos información actualizada en un futuro próximo.

Al final, le toca a nosotros para asumir la responsabilidad de los residuos que generamos. Podemos tomar medidas para reducir, reutilizar y reciclar.

Where does Costa Ballena Trash Go?  Can I Recycle?

Geoporter’s Clean Streets, Clean Waters Project has been mapping street and beach trash since 2012. With this information, actions have been taken by various community businesses and organizations to prevent trash from entering our streets and ultimately our oceans.We wanted to know more about where our garbage goes and what happens to recyclables when they are mixed in with trash. We share here what we learned from our recent trip to the Municipality of Osa and the landfill where our weekly garbage goes. We will send updated information in the near future.

In the end, it’s up to us to take responsibility for the waste we generate. We can take steps to reduce, reuse and recycle.

¿A dónde va mi basura?
El vertedero está justo al sur del puente en Palmar Norte. En 2016, hay planes para abrir una nueva relleno sanitario en la propiedad. Este nuevo centro estará cubierto y permitirá a la protección de los trabajadores contra el sol y lluvia.

¿Puedo reciclar?
Sí. Actualmente hay 3 familias que han recibido el permiso de la Municipalidad para separar los materiales reciclables de la basura, todos los días cuando la basura llega al sitio.

¿Debo separar mis materiales reciclables desde mi basura?
No es necesario. En el próximo año cuando el nuevo centro de recepción se ha abierto, Sí.

¿Por qué esperar hasta que este centro ha abierto? Debido a que las familias van a trabajar juntos cuando se abre el nuevo relleno sanitario. Actualmente trabajan para sí mismos, de recibir el pago de lo que recogen.

¿Qué se recicla?
Las botellas de vidrio, botellas de plástico y latas de aluminio se reciclan. El Municipio no tiene actualmente la capacidad de reciclar papel o cartón

Where does my trash go?
The landfill is just south of the bridge in Palmar Norte. In 2016, there are plans to open a new receiving station on the property. This new center will be covered and will enable the workers protection from the sun and rain.Can I recycle?
Yes. Currently there are 3 families that have received permission from the Municipality to separate recyclable materials from the trash, daily when the trash arrives on site.

Should I separate my recyclables from my trash?
It is not necessary. In the coming year when the new receiving center has opened, Yes.

Why wait until this center has opened? Because the families will be working together when the new center opens. Currently they work for themselves, receiving payment from what they collect.

What is recycled?
Glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminum cans are currently recycled. The Municipality does not currently have the capacity to recycle paper or cardboard.

More details here    ||    Más detalles aquí

Where does Costa Ballena Trash End Up? Can I Recycle?

As part of our Clean Streets, Clean Waters Project, we wanted to find out more about where our garbage in Costa Ballena goes and what happens to recyclables if they are thrown out with the trash. We took a trip to the Municipality of Osa before the 2015 holidays to meet with Yanitza Rojas and to the landfill where our weekly garbage ends up.

As we prepare for 2016, we want to share with you a few things we learned so that you can keep this in mind as we continue to try and keep our streets clean and oceans free of debris. Because in the end, it’s up to us to take responsibility for the waste we generate.

Landfill south of Palmar Norte, December 2015

Landfill south of Palmar Norte, December 2015, Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

Where does my trash go?

Trash picked up weekly from the Municipality of Osa is taken to a landfill that has been in operation for 34 years. The landfill is just south of the bridge in Palmar Norte. In 2016, there are plans to open a new receiving station on the property. This new center will be covered and will enable the workers protection from the sun.

Can I recycle?

Yes. Currently 3 groups, or families totaling 25 people, have received permission from the Municipality of Osa to separate recyclable materials from the trash, daily when the trash arrives on site. These families receive payment from selling the recycled goods back to the companies of Florida Bebidas and VICESA. Each bottle has a price and that price varies by the color or the material.

Should I separate my recyclables from my trash?

Currently No, but in the near future, Yes. In the current situation, each of the three families works for themselves. What they pull as recyclables is what they are sell. In 2016 when the new receiving station is opened, the three families will work together to sell the recyclable materials they pull from the garbage. Thus, in the future, they will work together and split the profits accordingly.

The current leader for all three families has stated that in the future, to have recycled materials separated from trash will be beneficial and will improve their productivity. To do so now, would mean that families will continue to keep bags of recycled materials to themselves. These bags may not see the landfill because they will have been set aside for their family to collect the profit.

In the coming months we expect to hear from Yanitza that the new Receiving Station has been opened and that separation of materials will be beneficial to the workers at the landfill. Until this point, if you do separate, keep in mind that it will help only certain families and continue to promote competition. We are working with Yanitza to develop a solution to help residents label or identify what materials are recyclable and what is general trash such as placing recyclable materials in green or transparent bags. Or something such as a label on the bag.

What materials are recycled?

Glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminum cans are currently recycled. The Municipality does not currently have the capacity to recycle paper or cardboard. Paper and cardboard cannot get wet, and the Municipality does not have a storage location that will prevent paper and cardboard from getting wet before it is shipped off to another part of Costa Rica to be recycled.

With permission from the Municipality, workers separate recyclables from trash, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

With permission from the Municipality, workers separate recyclables from trash, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

One group's recyclable materials, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

One group’s recyclable materials, December 2015. Photo Credit: Melissa Rejeb

New Receiving Station for landfill to open in 2016. Photo Credit: Amy Work

New Receiving Station for landfill to open in 2016. Photo Credit: Amy Work


See more photos on Flickr.


Students help school earn Bandera Azul recognition

Students from Escuela La Flor de Bahia help their school earn its first Bandera Azul (Blue Flag). Students is grades two through six (2-6) worked with Geoporter and community volunteers weekly for seven weeks to work on its waste management initiative. As such, students participated by mapping and collecting trash on school grounds, the adjoining soccer field, and street in front of their school. Quickly picking up on how to use GPS units, the students were off and running, collecting and recording the locations of where they picked up trash. They then downloaded their GPS points, creating their very own School Trash Map.

View Larger Map

The data the students collected was sent into the Bandera Azul program along with other school identified initiatives that include: water management, risk management, environmental education, status of health services, promoting clean spaces, developing an integrated waste management plan and energy. Before April of 2014, Escuela La Flor de Bahia will celebrate by raising its first blue flag on school grounds as part of the Bandera Azul program.



The Pura Vida of The Pollination Project: The Impact of $1K in Costa Rica

Humpback whales from northern and southern migrations in the Pacific Ocean travel every winter to the breeding grounds near the equator. These humpback whales now have a breeding environment off the coast of Costa Rica that is less polluted than it was a year ago, before The Pollination Project seeded Bahia Ballena.

Bahia Ballena is a small coastal community with 3,000+ residents that has transitioned from a rural fishing village to one that brings in more than 20,000 tourists annually to see these magnificent creatures in their natural breeding grounds. Over the past year, residents of Bahia Ballena have been using GPS units and computers with GIS (computer mapping and analysis software), that were purchased with support from The Pollination Project, to improve the environment of their community and the habitat of the whales that call the ocean waters home for about four months every year.


This geospatial travel lab of four GPS units, rechargeable batteries and two computers has enabled Geoporter to train and educate community members to use these technologies to investigate their community. Over five months residents, including youth, categorized and mapped trash along the streets and beaches in town. After the 6 am Friday morning trash classification activities, key residents and leaders gathered to review the trash maps, created by residents, to examine concentrations of trash and identify new locations to place trash and recycling containers. By going door to door, residents collected enough money from ten companies and organizations in town to build and construct eight new trash and recycling centers with roofs to protect from the daily rains.

geoporter-laflor-basuraResidents know that placing these trash cans is not the final solution to eliminating trash in the streets and beaches and protecting the marine habitat, but rather there needs to be a behavioral shift in the people. With this in mind, residents and the resident Geoporter in town shared the GPS and GIS technologies with students in the local elementary school. Students learned how to use the technologies while also understanding their role in creating and eliminating trash in the streets. Using the trash map created from data collected by the students, the director of the school was recently informed that the school earned its first Blue Flag as part of the Bandera Azul program. Bandera Azul is a national program designed to recognize schools, communities, organizations that develop and implement environmentally friendly practices by balancing conservation, development and protection of natural resources.

With the new trash and recycling centers placed in the ground at the end of October, residents are now preparing for another high season of tourists and mapping the streets and beaches again to see if the new trash centers have made an impact in the amount of debris in the streets. With over 128 cm (50 in) of annual rainfall, it doesn’t take long for the trash in the streets to make the 2 km journey to the ocean and the winter breading grounds of humpback whales in Marino Ballena National Park. But trash isn’t the only thing residents are concerned about. ballenas-geoporter-jovino-bahiaballena-They also want to know when the whales are arriving, where they can be spotted in the ocean and the departure dates so they can help protect the whales and their habitat. Guides and captains from different Tour Companies are using these technologies to map the daily humpback whale sightings during the different migration seasons which will help them understand the whale patterns today as well to see changes in whale numbers, location, and arrival and departure dates in the future.

Without the support of The Pollination Project, Geoporter would have been without the geospatial travel lab to take to different locations to train and educate community members to apply the technologies and carry out projects themselves. The application of these technologies has earned national news recognition with two articles being published in La Nación, one of the national newspapers in Costa Rica, about residents using GPS and GIS in to map trash and monitor whales. Residents of Bahia Ballena along with Geoporter are grateful for this support and have had the opportunity to take this travel lab to other nearby communities to share ideas and help support other communities to start learning how to use GPS and GIS. With these seed funds, Geoporter applied for and recently received its 501(c)3 status in the U.S. to continue educating communities around the world to learn to use these technologies for themselves to investigate their community and make the change they wish to see in the world. Thank you for pollinating our project and helping us get started on our dream to change the world through education with GIS and GPS!

We currently have an IndieGoGo Project to help raise funds to continue this project. Won’t you help us continue to make a difference.


Bahia needs your support – Basura de Bahia

We’ve conducted trash (basura) collections using GPS to map the trash! The containers that will be used for trash and recycling have been purchased and painted by community residents! The community has identified the locations to place the trash cans using the trash maps they created!

All we are missing is the materials to build the roofs and frames to hold two containers together (one for trash and one for recycling) and the roofs to protect the trash and recycling center from filling with water (the holes have already been punched in the containers to let water escape).


Today a letter was sent out to businesses and community residents about the seeking support for acquiring the funds to make these basureros happen.

To date, the Geoporter Team working on this project consists of many companies and many individuals have volunteered their time and already contributed resources. What an incredible community. If you are interested in helping, contact us and we’ll send you the information to this project.


Dear friends of the community,

We all love our community and its natural resources. For that we are working hard to conserve our natural resources via trash collections and mapping, and subsequently the construction of trash centers, which are being strategically placed in the community of Bahia as you can see in the map.

Would you like to help?  If so, you can contribute via wire transfer to the accounts of El Colono La Jungla.  Please put in the detail/comments section: “BAHIA TRASH PROJECT”.  The materials cost to build the roof and frame for one trash center is 46,000 colones (Approx. $92 USD).  Please note that we have the trash cans ready and painted!

Please contact us for the account of El Colono La Jungla:

** The Muni will collect the trash
** We would like to place these before October 31

Team Geoporter

Shifting from Trash Collections to Taking Action! What can we do to prevent trash from entering our streets?

Since April, various individuals from Bahía-Uvita have been working together to understand a serious problem that impacts communities around the world: Trash. Every Friday, starting the first week in April, individuals have gathered to pick up trash from the streets. Each week a new location is selected for the cleanup. But, this isn’t just any ordinary community trash collection. Residents are using GPS technology to record the location of the trash they collect and then using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to create maps that show the amount of trash and type of trash collected.



The approach residents selected to map the trash is: to count and classify the type of trash in a 24m radius along the streets and beaches. The resulting trash map shows the areas that have the greatest amount of trash.


As a community, we could continue to collect trash every Friday for the rest of our lives. But that is not the answer to the trash problem. Rather, we have to take action to prevent trash from entering our streets in the first place. Using the trash map, we as a community have identified where new public trashcans (checkered flags on map), to use for both trash and recyclables, need to be placed. The community is working now to gather the resources and materials to construct trashcans to place in the identified locations.


The Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Uvita recently constructed 4 trash cans to place in Bahia-Uvita. These are in addition to the trash and recycling cans sponsored by Bodhi Surf School and Bahía Aventuras (green flags on map) in January and the materials that others such as the Asociación de Guías and the Asociación de Operadores de Turismo y individual businesses are looking to also provide.

basureros-uvita-asociación de-desarrollo-integral-de-uvita-geoporter


Placing trashcans in public locations is not the only solution to eliminating trash. Education and outreach are also important for understanding what we can do today as well as how our actions today can impact the future. The last two Fridays Geoporter has switched from trash collections to discussions about what actions can we take to reach out to students, community members, businesses and tourists who visit our community. The ideas generated from the first meeting were plentiful and impressive, but not the final list. The list will continue to grow as others submit ideas and choose to take responsibility for helping to implement the actions that will benefit the community.


During this last meeting, the group highlighted the most important items to carry out as a community and what each person would be willing to commit to doing. Thus for future Fridays individuals will work on items they commit to and report back. We invite all those interested in assisting to join our meetings and conversations and to share new ideas and commit to an action(s) that is important to them.

Geoporter in April

Since August of 2012, I have been living and working in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica teaching and training educators, youth and community members how to use geospatial technologies, or GIS and GPS, to investigate their community resources or issues they think are important. I want to take just a few minutes to summarize some of the incredible Geoporter activities taking place here in this wonderful community that have occurred in the past month. There are so many things, but I’ll try to keep it short.

Pollination Project
Geoporters was selected as a recipient of a Pollination Project to improve our mobile geospatial technology lab. With their support we were able to secure a few additional GPS units, one that have a stronger signal under the forest canopy cover, two laptops to conduct additional GIS trainings, and rechargeable batteries to use with the GPS units. We are so happy to be a part of this wonderful opportunity. We have also been asked to help another Pollination Project to use geospatial technologies to map the trees they are planting. What a great example of being able to thank The Pollination Project by “paying it forward.”

Let’s talk about Boundaries and Mountains at Escuela Verde:
I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible teachers and staff at Escuela Verde, a bi-lingual school for grades K-6. To see the way these students are processing the information related to the GPS and GIS activities they are doing, is incredible. The past few weeks I have been working closely with Esteban, the new 5/6th grade science teacher and David, the 1st/2nd grade social studies.

David’s students are learning about political boundaries and key features found in every Costa Rican town; which include a soccer field (cancha), mini-supermarket (pulpería), church (iglesia), and school (escuela). To make learning these concepts more fun, we took a field trip to actually see the boundaries of the district, Costa Ballena, where the school is located. We marked the locations of the boundary limits and the features using GPS units. Oh, and don’t forget about the photos to go along with GPS’ing the locations.

The class is now downloading the waypoints and photos, and transferring the information that was recorded on paper to a digital version so we can symbolize the features to create a map to share with their parents.

Esteban’s 5/6th grade class has been exploring mountains, valleys, rivers and deserts that are found in Costa Rica and around the world (with deserts in the world rather than Costa Rica). What is the tallest mountain in the world? What is the largest desert in the world? The longest river? And where are all of these features located?

After examining a map of these features using ArcGIS Desktop and a modified activity from Mapping Our World, we used GPS units to mark elevations on school grounds. The students were able to compare mountains, valleys and rivers found on the map, but understanding differences in elevation. Next students are planning to create presentations highlighting these features and more information about each theme.

What to do when the northern whales have started their migration north?
The whale monitoring project working with tour guides, captains and tour companies has taken somewhat of a break this month due to the early departure of the northern whales that have called Bahia Ballena home since late October. But this has provided us the opportunity to prepare for the southern whale migration season, which will arrive in June and stay through early November.

Ballenas Map Only 2012-12-01

We are in the process of mapping the whale sighting data from this past season of northern whales to add to the map of the southern 2012 whale season from August to October. We will then be able to use these maps when we start our training for new guides and captains next week.

Rise and shine!!! It’s Trash Collection Time!!
Starting in April, a solid group of about 8 people (at times up to 15 people) have collected and categorized trash in order to map the landscape of trash in the streets and on the beaches of Bahia Ballena. We’ve had 5 trash collections starting at 6 am. Yep, that’s 6 am. The sun has just come up and it’s one of the coolest times of the day. We’ll collect trash until 8 am, but it seems that we have such a great group that we don’t finish until around 9 am. And one day, we went until 10 am when the sun and heat let us know that it was time to call it a day.

We’ll continue to map the trash in the streets to continue providing information for others, Asociacion de Guias de Bahia Ballena (ASOGUIBA), Asociacion de Tour Operadores, and the Asociacion de Desarrollo (Development) can construct new trash cans and place them in the areas of trash hotspots.

Silence your cell phones, it’s presentation time
On May 7th, Geoporter had the opportunity to present our project and what we are doing to the Chamber of Tourism and Commerce of Costa Ballena de Osa (CACOBA). We presented all the projects we have been working on and a future project of creating a community map of Bahia Ballena with youth here in town. We’ve already made some progress with getting some of the waypoints and photos of different tour companies, restaurants, hotels in town.

We were also invited to a meeting organized by KETO to present our trash mapping project as they continue to work with different individuals, organizations and the National Park staff to seek improvements for Marino Ballena National Park.

This week, we will be driving to San Jose to make a presentation to La Nacion, a national newspaper in Costa Rica. In the afternoon we are headed over to meet with MarViva, an organization that promotes the conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Basura en las costas del mundo

Les invitamos a leer este interesante articulo sobre la basura que es arrastrada o tirada en las costas del mundo. A todos esos que han colaborado con el proyecto del mapeo de basura de las calles de bahia ballena les decimos son unos valientes que merecen una medalla de honor porque ademas de evitar que toda esa basura sea arrastrada al mar y hacer la isla de basura cada dia mas grande han quizas salvado muchas  tortugas,peces,aves,cetaceos y muchas otras especies que habrian sido victimas de esa basura.

Agradecemos a GEOPORTER y en especial a Amy Work por su gran aporte a nuestra comunidad. Luz Mirian Badilla,Ronald Guzman colaboradores al 100% en este proyecto.

Aprovechamos para invitar a los Hoteles de la zona a que conoscan este proyecto y se involucren con estas iniciativas que benefician a todos los empresarios turisticos de la zona.

Muchas gracias

Rafael Sanchez


Bahia Aventuras
Bahía Ballena, OSA, Costa Rica

Through the creation of art…will the amount of trash change?

This vast world we live in is filled with beauty in the smallest of corners. All one has to do is take a look at the recent community trash and recycling containers that were built and installed in Bahía Ballena. The first two containers were placed at two different sites where trash is found almost every day: next to the school entrance and between the soccer field and other entrance to the school.

These trashcans are simply amazing!! How can the colorful containers not draw your eyes to look? One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, or in this case piece of art.

A bit of background

This project started several years ago with residents of Bahía Ballena noticing the amount of trash spread throughout their community. Wanting to do something about it, they started doing community trash cleanups. Over time the trash cleanup involved into trash mapping, using GPS to map the trash they would pick up in the streets and on the beaches.

With adults and students partaking in mapping the trash, little by little they started to see the problem areas. While doing trash cleanups is a great service project, life can’t be about setting dates and times to pick up trash. And as our friends at Bodhi Surf put it “trash cleanups are not a sexy service project (luckily we can do them at the beach which makes it a little better)”.

The thing about using GPS and GIS, is that we can analyze the data about the trash……and then do something about it.

Time for Action!

In December, when the tourist season was a little on the lighter side, residents met to review the trash mapped and identify where they thought public trash cans should be placed. For a town of approximately 1,000 residents and more tourists than cars, only 12 public trashcans existed. After the 3 meetings, they decided where 13 new trashcans needed to be placed. But these wouldn’t be just any special trashcans. These new trashcans would actually hold two containers: one for trash and the other for recycling.

Ronald took the lead in constructing the frame and roof for the new containers with the help of a local repair shop for tools and welding equipment. Thanks to a group of students and some help of local students, 4 recycled blue bins were painted to serve as the new containers for the two sites. 

A few days after the first trashcan was installed next to the school, I returned to find trash in the container!!

Only time will tell if these incredible containers will draw people’s attention and encourage them to place their trash in the containers.  As the project moves forward, the community is looking for tour companies, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses  to purchase the materials for the containers. Bahía Aventuras and Bodhi Surf sponsored the materials for the first two basureros sites. If you are interested in donating to the construction of a trash can, let us know.

Only time will tell if these incredible containers will draw people’s attention and encourage them to place their trash in the containers.  But one thing’s for sure, when classes start up in a few days, the students will have a place to put their trash.