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.


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.


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.