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A Recycling Revolution 

In a small, unassuming scrapyard in the centre of Puerto Jimenez, six directors and a group of volunteers are working tirelessly to transform the community. Formed in 1993, ASCONA (The Association of Community and Environmental Service) is an incredible organisation that works with people to protect natural resources, educate the population of the Osa Peninsula and promote art and culture in the region.

In 2016, a new board of directors was formed, and they have already achieved remarkable things with minimal funding. This week, I have been speaking to ASCONA’s President - Jose Daniel Beita Argüello - the brains and enthusiasm behind a wide variety of projects; from renovating the library, to starting up an art and culture program for children, to revolutionising the process of recycling in the community, he seems to be an unstoppable force in changing Puerto Jimenez for the better. Each of these individual projects warrants its own attention, so this week’s article will concentrate solely on the current recycling project: GIRO (OSA's Integral Recycling Management).

Costa Rica, though known worldwide as an eco-friendly country, is notoriously bad at recycling. With no simple and unified system, many households and businesses simply burn or bury their waste. However, ASCONA is on a mission to change that, and with the help of a team of volunteers and members of the community, is attempting to solve Puerto Jimenez’s recycling problem. Working with both individuals and businesses in the town, the project aims to create a unified system of recycling in the district which is used by everyone, and produce a generation that is educated in the importance of recycling and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Already, in the past year and a half, project GIRO has successfully brought together the environmental sector, local organisations, businesspeople and the local government and started a recycling transformation in the community. Having spent this Saturday involved in the recycling run, I was impressed by just how much of the community GIRO has managed to inspire and involve. From Beau, a local businessman who has not only provided funds and a truck to support the project, but also his time and effort in personally collecting waste from businesses, to the children that help him out. Two collection centres have already been set up - one located in the community of Puerto Jiménez and the other in the community of La Palma - where recyclable items are dropped off and sorted into appropriate piles. As a result, they have managed to change the waste disposal habits of many households and businesses.

But Jose’s vision does not stop here. The organisation’s immediate plans are to finish building the recycling centre in Puerto Jimenez, and bring in a compacting machine from the local high school. This way they can compact materials before taking them to the main site in La Palma – making transportation easier and cheaper.

In the long term, they hope to become a self-sufficient organisation by making fertilizers out of some of the waste they receive - of which 50% is compostable. On top of that, GIRO hopes to recycle items such as plastic and aluminium into useful items on site; such as construction blocks, benches and bins, thus making the whole process self-contained. Already, they have started cleaning glass bottles and selling them to wine shops, cutting out the need to produce new materials altogether. Once they have achieved these aims, they hope to replicate this process across the whole region. Jose predicts that by 2020, they will be able to process at least 80% of recyclable waste (aluminium, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard) generated by the community and in commercial establishments.

The project has clearly already achieved impressive things across the community, changing the ingrained and environmentally unfriendly habits of individuals and businesses in the centre of Puerto Jimenez. With further support from the government and donors, their detailed plan looks like it will successfully revolutionise the management of waste disposal in the region, aligning Puerto Jimenez’s waste disposal to the rest of its eco-friendly practices.

And it is not just the environment GIRO will be benefiting, but the entire community.  Frontier volunteers are assisting with the project - both by helping to sort of waste, and by creating a promotional video to attract donors. Hopefully, with our aid, they can secure the funding they need to make this vision a reality.

Ruby Jarvis – Frontier Costa Rica | Media & Journalism Intern

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