by Karla Barquero, Project Biologist
Changing a culture takes time and, unfortunately, in the topic of recycling we have spent rather little time. That is why now it is ever more urgent to take concrete action, insignificant as it might seem, and hope that it spreads to as many people as possible, young and old, so that they all become inspired by the thrill of knowing they are making a difference. One by one, from effort to effort, the cumulative effects of individual actions join to become a huge collective one. It is by this premise that we annually commemorate important dates such as the World Environment Day, celebrated every 5th of June. Since its declaration by the United Nations in 1972, each year this celebration inspires millions of ordinary people to commit to extraordinary action. The common goal: to contribute to a better quality of life for all, people and the millions of organisms with which we share this ill-treated planet.
Overgrown grass, smashed soda bottle, stranded plastic bag, faded beer can, leaf-cutter ant trail, battered cardboard box, wet from the last rain shower, piece of the old soccer ball, action figure half-buried in the mud… This could very well be part of a general description of many of our neighborhood soccer fields, anywhere in the world. The community center of social activities usually carries the rather shameful weight of serving also as a museum for the wastes of several generations of neighbors and soccer Sundays. The neighbors come and go, but their bags and bottles stay. Depending on the material, they stay for another 500 years, in fact. And it’s not badly intended, from the neighbors or the bottles. It is only part of a consumer culture with very bad memory, which forgets objects as soon as they accidentally “fall” out of its hands. This adds to a small amount of ignorance about the dimension of the damage derived from our actions, since nature cannot always be in charge of making our waste disappear. This is how we grew up, this is what we taught and set as example for our children, and this is precisely how we filled this unique planet up with garbage.
With this reality in mind, from the Nature and Community Project we launched a campaign called “Towards a Cleaner Community”. The goal was to promote the collection of recyclable wastes accumulated in the communities through a healthy competition among teams of children, all participants of our Environmental Education Program. Thirteen teams from four schools got inscribed, for a total of 68 participants. The challenge: to collect as much glass, paper, plastic, cardboard and tetrapack as possible, to rescue them from an extremely slow decomposition in the municipal garbage dump and give the material a new change at being useful. By foot and on a bike, kilograms upon kilograms of wastes made their way to the schools, packed in sacks and bags of all sizes. From here, they were transported to the
The next Monday, in assembly before the entire school, the participants held their breath while they listened to the announcement of the final results. In only three weeks, together they gathered 1705 kilograms of wastes from their streets, fields and homes. Teams such as the “Pumas”, the “Titis”, “Helpers of Nature” and “Friends of Nature” had contributed to clean their communities, with the help of the parents and neighbors. Reason enough to stand up proudly and receive their classmates’ and teachers’ applause, and accept a symbolic prize in recognition of their effort to give the environment a break to continue with its natural cycles.
With the launch of this campaign, the waste separation programs of these schools were also activated. Thanks to the Recycling Program of COBAL in Sarapiqui, we can continue to support these initiatives with the transportation and storage of the wastes, which also reinforces the work of the teachers and our Environmental Education Program in the area.
We thank the Corporate Responsibility Department of COBAL for their support in this endeavor, and hope it may not be the last time we can enjoy such a rewarding experience.