Recycling has had an increasingly large impact on everyone’s lives over the past few years, as nations worldwide push to recycle more and more waste, rather than just let it pile up in landfills. One of these countries is Costa Rica, which is constantly improving its efforts to increase the size and scope of recycling.
The Recycling Basics in Costa Rica
Why bother with recycling? Well, the fact is that the environment is steadily going downhill. Landfills take up valuable space and look frankly hideous. The space problem is an even larger issue in Costa Rica, where there simply isn’t enough room to safely put them. But this isn’t the only issue with landfills. They actively poison the nearby area. Harmful chemicals leech into the ground and any nearby water, while greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere.
Also, there’s the simple fact that we use up resources. Those have to come from somewhere, such as the stunning rainforests in Central America. By recycling, we can reduce the amount of raw resources and energy needed to make a product.
The advice in Costa Rica, like many other places, follows the cycle of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” That means that, when it comes to waste, we should all first try to reduce the waste we produce. Buying things with minimal packaging will do this. If you can’t reduce this waste, try to reuse it, like using glass jars more than once. The final step is to recycle everything we can.
Unfortunately, not everything can be recycled everywhere. Different materials require different processes, meaning that you might be able to recycle a material in one place but not in another. Also, different places have different protocol. So, how can we do our bit in Costa Rica?
How to Recycle in Costa Rica
The first thing to do is to find out what is applicable for recycling in your area. Do this by finding the nearest Recovery and Assessment center and getting in touch. Ask what kind of materials they receive, maybe write it down somewhere so you can remember, and you’re ready to recycle.
In fact, it might be an idea to use this information to inform what products you buy. Prioritize recyclable or biodegradable packaging where you can, so you can reduce your waste.
Handily enough, you now know where the nearest Recovery and Assessment center is. While you’re discussing what you can recycle, now is the time to ask about the schedule of their delivery route. This way, you can have your recycling ready and waiting. If they don’t collect the trash, then find out their opening hours so you can take your recycling to them.
Now that you have all the information you need, find a way to sort and store your recyclable waste. You’ll need containers, if you can reuse cardboard boxes or other packaging, that would be ideal. Clean the recyclable materials, then separate your papers, plastics, and glass and label the containers.
The last thing to do is to either get it ready for collection, or to take it over to the Recover and Assessment center. If you have to make the trip, it might be an idea to chat to your neighbors and work out a schedule for someone to take a bulk delivery. This cuts down on the amount of journeys that you have to make and helps to bring you closer to your neighborhood. Recycling is a community practice, after all.
Does Costa Rica Recycle Plastic?
Plastic is notoriously difficult to recycle, because many manufacturers mix different plastics together when they make a product. In Costa Rica, around 440 tons of plastic waste produced daily eventually ends up in the sea. Even worse, most plastic can’t break down and biodegrade, meaning that it just sits there. It’s been estimated that by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in seas around the world.
This plastic turns into microplastic, essentially being ripped up into tiny pieces. These pieces are small enough to be eaten by sea creatures, such as fish or turtles. This plastic is, unsurprisingly, very unhealthy for the fish. But then when the fish is eaten by a human, so is the microplastic. It isn’t just poisoning the sea, it’s poisoning us.
Ideally, rather than throwing out plastic, we should reuse it wherever possible. But Costa Rica does recycle some plastic products, although only around 9% (according to a 2018 report). To find out which plastic is recycled in your area, you should contact your local Recovery and Assessment center.
There are some other interesting solutions to the “plastic problem” being considered. For example, one company has developed a process that turns plastic waste into building blocks. It’s shredded and cleaned up, then added to cement to create a concrete block.
Are Plastic Bags Banned in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has taken some drastic steps to combat these high amounts of plastic waste. One of the major components of this waste is plastic bags, which can easily be reused or replaced by environmentally friendly bags.
So, in 2018, Costa Rica banned both plastic straws and many types of plastic bags. If you go into a store in Costa Rica now, you’ll see a lack of plastic bags on offer. Rather, people are encouraged to reuse bags instead of throwing them away, which truly lives up to the idea of “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.”
Will Costa Rica Ban Single Use Plastics?
The plastic bag ban, while momentous, was actually just one of the first steps of a plan outlined in 2017. This plan seeks to drastically reduce plastic waste at the source, by banning all single use plastics, including many plastic bottles. So, stock up on reusable bottles.
Already, single use plastics aren’t allowed into Costa Rican national parks, as well as biological reserves and national monuments. This stops people from littering plastic in these stunning areas. Also, single use plastic can’t be purchased by public institutions and companies.
The goal is for single use plastics to be banned entirely in Costa Rica by the end of the year.