Communities: Don’t Waste Good Wastes!

Communities in Costa Rica: Don’t Waste Good Wastes!

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Keeping the world green and healthy is the responsibility of everyone. Join me to learn about waste management in the Monteverde community. How have you contributed to the recycling efforts in your community?


How do nations meet their communities’ needs? 

The Monteverde Recycle Campaign group believes that “everything can have another life.” How can we bestow life back to something? Reuse and recycling! That’s the theme now in the green community of Monteverde. Indeed, waste management is a community effort. Let’s stop at the pig farm and learn about how they recycle the wastes. What are your thoughts and solutions to the problem at stake?

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What community need did I learn about?

This week I learned about solid waste management in Monteverde. As a small Quaker community, everyone believes in environmental responsibility. They do their part to keep Monteverde green. I rarely find a piece of trash or a plastic bottle while walking on the roads in Monteverde. The fact that there are no trash cans located on public roads makes it even more impressive. So the streets are clean, but where does most of the waste come from? It comes from people’s houses. There are a wide range of houses, representing different styles of living and income levels, found here. I have visited a few different houses here. The more well-off families with “fancier” houses tend to be very environmentally conscious. They have compost bins and try to recycle whenever they can. The less affluent families with tin roofs tend to combine everything together in the trash bin. In fact, my homestay family right now does not recycle nor do they have a compost bin in the house. We drink from the tap and the water comes from the fresh mountain springs. The water tastes fine, better than bottled water back in the United States, in my opinion. So the risk of contamination is low. The family tries to conserve as much water as they can. I want to introduce to my homestay family the idea of composting and recycling. Preserving a clean atmosphere is just as important as preserving clean water.

Why does the community have this need? 

Monteverde is a growing community, with increasing demands in order to meet everyone’s needs. It is home to many natural reserves, including the Cloud Forest Reserve, as well as endangered wildlife. As humans and wildlife clash, humans are seen as “invasive species”. We can easily wipe out vulnerable species whose habitats are diminishing. Thus, we need to do our part to preserve nature and protect the ecosphere. How? Composting and recycling!
Not everyone in Monteverde is recycling. We need to change that so everyone can participate. The more we can help the environment the better. Monteverde is home to the Monteverde Cheese Factory, which has played an integral part in the development of the community since the founding of the town in 1950s. The Quakers arrived and began farming dairy cattle. They opened the factory in 1953. With increasing demands for dairy products, more waste is generated and efficient waste management system becomes necessary.

Is this need being met? How?

There are no laws implemented in Monteverde regarding recycling. It all depends on the minds of the people in the community. Though you can find plastic bags at the groceries or excessive use of plastic materials (a plastic cup wrapped in a plastic bag and goes into another plastic bag upon purchase), efforts have been put in to minimize waste and recycle whenever possible.
In 2011, a group of college students founded Monteverde Recycle Campaign with the goal of collecting recyclable or reusable materials. For examples, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass, cardboard, paper, electronic waste, and more. Wastes are sent to places where they are given proper treatment to reduce environmental impact. The campaign group believes that “everything can have another life.” As an ongoing effort, this campaign needs to reach out to more people in Monteverde, especially those from the low income bracket of the community. The location of the recycling center is not readily accessible to everyone in town. It’s located in a nearby town called Santa Elena. To be accepted for recycling, all cans and bottles must be clean and contain no residual liquid. This does not create incentives for people to recycle. Perhaps a collection team that walks through all the neighborhoods to collect recyclable materials once a week?

Schools are teaching kids to reuse and recycle. They build compost bins and gardens out of plastic bins discarded from the cheese factory. The food scraps, with the churning action of earthworms, become the perfect plant fertilizer. Young people in Monteverde are greeners and they need to spread the words to their parents and friends.

I recently took a tour of the Monteverde Cheese Factory and saw their waste treatment facility. The factory extracts the whey by-product from cheese production and uses it to feed the local pig farm. Pig wastes are then filtered (since most of the nutrients are still intact) and become food for bulls. The water waste drains into a lagoon, where anaerobic microbes consume all the waste particles and return the water into its purified state. Basically the water goes though many stages of purification to reach the streams. When I was at the pig farm, the lagoon seemed to be almost overflowing. With the incoming rain season, it ought to overflow. I was very concerned but the guide told us that it would not happen. In my opinion, a better waste management system should be installed at the pig farm. The current condition of the lagoon raises health concern.

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