On a Monday morning in June, Uriel Pérez Sibaja and Cristian Zumbado took turns slinging sacks of recyclables into a rainbow-striped truck. The flurry of flattened cardboard, tin cans and Coke bottles was a week’s worth of recycling from a luxury Nosara hotel.
As the truck rumbled along the bump-ridden road toward the next pickup, Sibaja slowed to a stop nearly every other street. Other local recycling entrepreneurs were just starting their days, and everyone was worthy of a wave.
“The nicest part is getting to say hi to people,” said Zumbado in a Pura Vida hat.
Zumbado helps manage the nonprofit Nosara Recycles, a community-run recycling center tasked with local waste management and the collection of all things reusable. After two years of a residential recycling route, Nosara Recycles has expanded its collection through a collaboration with local hotels, underscoring the fact that recycling takes a village.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility,” Zumbado said.
Nosara Recycles launched its Monday recycling collection for hotels in April. The pilot program augments the Wednesday residential route that began in 2016, which continues to service Esperanza, Nosara, Guiones and Pelada neighborhoods.
The recycling center fills a much-needed gap in the community since the municipality of Nicoya currently does not collect waste in Nosara. According to Nicoya’s Department of Environmental Management, the municipality is in the process of subcontracting trash collection and will present a new proposal to the canton in early July.
Each hotel on the Monday collection route offers a donation to participate, which allows Nosara Recycles to collect and weigh the recyclables; in return, each business receives a receipt of the transaction to count toward sustainability efforts.
The recycling collection receipts can be used toward applying for the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), confirmed Virgilio Espinoza, head of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute’s Department of Certifications and Social Responsibility in the Tourism Industry. CST offers businesses within the tourism sector a competitive advantage while securing their commitment to preserving natural resources.
Since the effort to keep Nosara healthy and clean is not only about collecting, Nosara Recycles also aims to educate the community on proper recycling habits. The center has begun offering the hotels workshops to guide them on best practices for sorting their materials.
This nonprofit chose hotels for the pilot program based on their commitments to environmental sustainability, said Nosara Recycles’s Jessica Sheffield. Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, Gilded Iguana, Harbor Reef Hotel, Harmony Hotel, Olas Verdes Hotel and The Sunset Shack currently participate in the new program. Another hotel, Lagarta Lodge, continues its recycling collection on the Wednesday residential route.
The haul from that one Monday morning in June yielded 440 kilos (970 pounds) of recyclables. Nosara Recicycles receives roughly six tons of recyclables per month.
The nonprofit reportedly earns a total of ¢210,000 a month from Monday route hotels —¢40,000 for large hotels, ¢25,000 for smaller businesses with 10 rooms or less. These donations help Nosara Recycles afford the truck service from Tierra Verde, a local gardening company in partnership with the recycling center. The center relies on volunteers to help sort the recyclables into categories before the materials are sold to various buyers.
The recycling center once gave Olas Verdes Hotel multicolored glass shards to use for mosaic murals that grace the hotel’s outdoor restaurant. General manager Luis Pardo said his staff sorts the hotel’s recyclables ahead of the Monday pickup to make it easier on whomever collects it.
“It’s part of the responsibility that every business and every resident has, to try to solve the problem of the solid waste that we produce,” Pardo said.
“Hotels, of course, produce more than residents and have a bigger share of finding a solution.”
According to the trade magazine Waste Management World, a hotel guest can generate more than one kilo of waste per day.
Founded in 2008, Nosara Recycles is headquartered next to the Nosara dump. The Voice of Guanacaste reported that the Ministry of Health ordered the sprawling landfill closed in 2014 over health and environmental concerns.
“But given that we don’t have an option B, they haven’t enforced it,” Sheffield said.
In the meantime, the recycling center continues to pursue local collaborations that would engage more restaurants, neighborhoods and even supermarkets. Even as Nosara Recycles’s efforts expand, Zumbado considers the potential impact on independent recyclers — the enterprising nosareños he meets on his morning routes who comb through the town’s cardboard, plastics, scrap metals and more to feed their own families.
“As the official Nosara recycling center, we just don’t want to harm people who have been doing this for years,” Zumbado said.
Disclaimer: Nosara Recycles receives donations from John Johnson, who is also a donor to The Voice of Guanacaste. Our donors have no influence over the content published in our pages. You can learn more about how we are financed in this link.