E-Waste and Non-e-Waste Recycling in Costa Rica

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Existing barriers in the society
  • History
  • Evidences
    Examples of recycling laws being implemented
    Latest improvements and facts
    Assessment and Suggestions
    Phase 1 – Understanding the local context
    Phase 2 – Recognizing local concerns and capacities
    Phase 3 – Engaging local communities
    Phase 4 – Empowering socially sustainable transformation


Costa Rica is a nation with staggering rainforests, shorelines, volcanoes, and cloud woods. Its huge biodiversity incorporates more than 500,000 species, speaking to almost four percent of the aggregate species around the world, inside a nation that spreads just 0.03% of the world’s surface (National Biodiversity Institute, 2010). This astounding scope of biodiversity, ensured inside a broad national stop framework, has added to a flourishing ecotourism industry, which from 2002 to 2006 developed over 6.6% every year and created over $1.9 billion every year.

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Recycling Laws and Organizations in Costa Rica related to waste disposal

It was in May 2010 that a historical milestone took place in Costa Rica regarding a new legislation passed by the government which was the “Ley para la Gestión Integral de Residuos” or the “Law for an Integrated Management of Residues”. The main focus of the legislation passed was to precise the importance of an integrated municipal solid waste management (MSWM). Also, an importance for the need for a national plan for waste management was also emphasized.

But in actual practice, the law just contained general rules for upgrades to the MSWM framework in Costa Rica The legislators expressed that they would pass decrees in the future to recognize the methodologies and techniques that Costa Rica will use to enhance its MWSM framework (Law for an Integrated Management of Residues, 2010).The German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) is a German non-governmental organization which has its operational wings in most of the developing countries like Costa Rica. The main objective of this organization is supporting countries struggling with developing strategies for sustainable development. German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in cooperation with Programa Competitividad y Medio Ambiante (CYMA), which is a Costa Rican government agency responsible for environmental protection, economy and public health has started a 7-year long collaboration. Both these organization have combined to crosscheck the present MSWM condition, including the collection of waste programs in the provincial as well as the national level so as to guide the lawmakers on potential decrees. The organization is mainly onto integrated MSWM practices which includes legal, financial and administrative implementation in the management process of waste disposal from its source to the final disposal.

Existing barriers in the society

Consumer willingness: The strategy of Eco-labeling depends on shopper readiness to pay more for items that are created utilizing ecologically well-disposed materials and practices. If the customer is not ready to go for the product the model would be a failure and it won’t produce the desired results. Deposit-refund requires customers interest through reusing and framework for the gathering and reprocessing of all of the targeted recyclable materials, which is something that is presently lacking in Costa Rica.

Outdated legislation: The country is administered by outdated legislation by the Ministry of Health. The majority of the waste is dumped into open spaces, sanitary landfills and only a small percentage of the waste is recycled. Approximately 90% of the waste are collected but the rural areas are left of the radar which is a big black spot for the country when its comes to waste disposal.

Lack of government funding: One of the major issues that the country is facing is the lack of government funding for the further development of MSWM and its integration to various levels. The fund mostly goes on Landfill disposal fees and only a minor amount is left back for MSWM procedures.

Lack of Infrastructure: Costa Rica lacks very much when it comes to building up a good infrastructure in the field of waste disposal.

Lack of Enforcement: Not only it lacks a strict legislation in the municipal stage but also in the national level too. In Costa Rica, the national government makes a law and the provinces are in charge of building up an arrangement of administration and authorization. The provinces are not authorized by the national government and that they decide not to institute and implement the laws in their area. In spite of the fact that this has not been a typical event in Costa Rica, the districts may not encourage the new waste administration law, rendering it inefficient to a great extent.


The history of waste disposal in Costa Rica started when the cultivators started burning down their own wastes. After the Costa Rican common war in 1948, the Republican's improvement started accelerating and in addition their framework for waste management too. Students from Worchester Polytechnic Institute called attention to the Republic's absence of appropriate waste administration framework in the 1950s. The framework set up was not prepared to deal with the speed of the nation's improvement, and in addition the significant increment of waste that was getting accumulated. The urbanization of Costa Rica not just got through an expansion in the measure of waste being created, however it additionally brought new sorts of waste. The initial segment of the twentieth century had for the most part consisting of organic waste. When the country started growing, nonetheless, industrial waste, e-waste, and even a "littering mindset" all emerged amid the second half of the twentieth century. An article in the "Tico Times" says that the administration needed to proclaim a national crisis with respect to waste management. From that point forward, fifteen bills were proposed until May 2010 when a law was at last passed.


Costa Rica has implemented 3 new approaches towards the recycling:

  1. Eco-labeling
  2. Deposit-refund
  3. PAYT.

In Eco-labeling, an authoritative certification committee provides an eco-label tag to the companies which has fulfilled a set of environmental guidelines which is tagged onto the final produce of the company. This tag in turn stands out to be a form of classification category for the customers creating a sense of environmental awareness and gives a type of publicizing to the makers.

In Deposit-refund, the ruling administration puts a charge on a recyclable item when it is obtained, which the customer would then be able to recover by reusing the item. Deposit-refund puts a financial incentive on the material, bringing about expanded reusing and diminished littering.

In PAYT, the government sets upon a charge for every disposed solid waste bag and in return accumulate the recyclable wastes for free. By this strategy adopted by the government it encourages the population to minimize the waste dumped and on the other hand it would pave way for an alternative source of revenue for the government which could be utilized in other ways for the betterment of the people.


The above statistics shows the recycling rate as well as the disposal rate of waste in Costa Rica. The statistics clearly shows that organic wastes make up the maximum percentage of waste disposal and also it is aluminum that is recycled the most compared to other modes of wastes.

Costa Rica produces a total of 2400 tons of wastes daily and out of these 60% of the wastes is ditched into the open dumps, 15% of the wastes goes to sanitary landfills, 15% into the rivers and streams causing water pollution and finally only 10% of the waste is recycled which is a very small percentage compared to the total disposal. Costa Rica still only has a single digit recycling rate, because a large amount of illegal dumping, and a large amount of organic waste being disposed is in landfills.

Costa Rica has a history of recyclable materials like aluminum and steel been processed internationally in which China had the major stake in it. Presently Costa Rica doesn’t have any legislation regarding materials being banned due to recyclable factors. But the country is working hard passing a legislation to ban plastic from the country which will be first of its kind.

Examples of recycling laws being implemented

One example is a $200 fine implemented by the government of Costa Rica for unlawful dumping of waste into lanes that is seldom implemented. Another example is regarding Nosara which is a village in Costa Rica, inhabitants are requested to isolate metal, glass, aluminum, and plastic from their junk. Shoppers pay $2.20 every month for accumulation of the waste that happen biweekly. The region of Desamparados made a flyer to instruct consumers on the separation of recyclable materials previously accumulated. In Atenas, there is a recycling center for the individuals who need to reuse metals, plastics, paper, and gadgets. This recycling center additionally offers employment to the crippled, in this way making chances and building a positive environment.

Responsibility of waste management is shared by almost all the stakeholders, it doesn’t matter whether it is the manufacturer, generators, customers, managers, legislative authority or the public, it depends on their role. But when it comes to e-wastes, it is now the sole responsibility of Ministry of Health for putting up rules for the management of end-of life electronics, which includes a long list of consumer electronic goods like desktop and laptop computers, batteries, chargers. Digital cameras and even overheated projectors.

Latest improvements and facts

Costa Rica is currently developing a system of sustainable e-waste management system, which is considered to be one of its first type from a developing country. The strategy was developed after careful analysis and case study from National Technical Committee which received its approval from major stakeholders and the outcomes of the system will be shortly presented so it could prove out to be a model system for many countries fighting hard towards waste disposal.

Costa Rica recently emerged out to be the first Latin-American country to successfully pass the motion for an e-scrap recycling legislation with the enactment of Regulation No- 35933-S. It is now the sole responsibility of Ministry of Health for putting up rules for the management of end-of life electronics, which includes a long list of consumer electronic goods like desktop and laptop computers, batteries, chargers. Digital cameras and even overheated projectors.

A huge and inspiring decision regarding plastic waste policies recently came from Costa Rica – not only will they be the world’s first country to completely eliminate single-use plastics, but plans are in place to do it as soon as 2021!

Assessment and Suggestions

In my opinion, Costa Rica needs to leap bounds and work so hard to develop a good waste management and recycling strategy. Even though the country has come forward with ideas, it needs polishing and further enforcement from the side of the government regarding its effective implementation and legislation. Costa Rican government could resort to education campaigns highlighting the significant of goods with Eco-tag so that not only it saves the environment in a way it makes them disease free by making a safer environment for survival. Also, the government could improve the recycling infrastructure so that they could decide how much the customer ought to spend for disposing their waste bags as in the Deposit- refund model and where to locate the recycling centers for increase the public participation. The government can overcome these deterrents by helping provinces grow their capacity to gather isolated materials, finding the correct cost for waste transfer to build support, and teaching people in general about the hugeness of the program and how it will be implemented.

Phase 1 – Understanding the local context

A full understanding of the local, social issues should serve as a guide for a sustainable development plan. Waste management issues have been identified as an area of great local concern for years in Santa Teresa with 88% of locals citing negative health and environmental issues arising from failure to properly address waste. Interviews conducted with key actors in community affairs and connections to waste management helped inform the researcher’s understanding of the proposed recycling project. There was general agreement that 1) the local government has not met its waste management obligation and 2) an area recycling center is a positive, durable solution that has the potential to significantly help address trash issues. Collective recycling options were tried, indicating strong community support. The recyclable drop off program has been sustained for over three years, indicating a strong and growing interest in recycling, but limited to those with transport. Those interviewed demonstrated a concern about methods of effectively educating and informing local people about the program, which mirrors the possible barriers noted by survey participants. The decision to target local residents as prime actors in the recycling project, instead of tourists, was posed in interviews. There was collective agreement that if there is no proper waste management system, including recycling, then there is no place for tourists to recycle. There is cognizance that once the project is functioning, special awareness and avenues for tourist participation in lodges and businesses must be created. NGOs and businesses saw themselves as conduits to encouraging tourist participation in recycling and waste reduction.

Phase 2 – Recognizing local concerns and capacities

The recognition phase involves analyzing the impacts of the proposed intervention to make adjustments to better meet local needs. Considering local capacities is essential for effective implementation and involvement. In Santa Teresa, the first step was informing active community members and local businesses of the plan to build a recycling center with Bionic®, which included building the center on municipal land. Stakeholders expressed concern that the municipality could determine the hour and manner of operation without community input. The municipal government, another stakeholder, was also concerned that the recycled materials would be sold at a profit. Recognizing and trying to address these concerns allowed the plan to change to placing the center on a donated piece of land, thus avoiding potentially project threatening disagreements with the local government. The trust deficit is not limited to residents and the local government. The attempt at various private, inconsistent recycling efforts has left many locals less willing to invest their time and effort in another project. Recognizing these worries demonstrates the importance of a simple and effective program that is demonstrably functional and effective. The surveys collected for this study helped NPWK create a program that will be more responsive to the needs and desires of the population.

Phase 3 – Engaging local communities

The “engagement” phase supports mitigation of issues by creating community lead social development strategies. The process helps local communities move from collecting information about problems and desired outcome to building shared solutions built on cooperation. Sixty-two percent of residents surveyed identify litter and uncollected trash as a local issue, which many loosely organized groups have tried to address. Active social engagement offers the benefits of incorporating more stakeholders, creating a new culture united around a reliant waste infrastructure solution. In the Santa Teresa area, NPWK has actively sought to invite all blocks of society to discuss their vision of waste solutions, creating spaces for businesses and residents to discuss place-based, collaborative solutions. Each year NPWK holds an annual sustainable solutions community fair to recognize the work of local community members, hold workshops on sustainable practices and provide an open forum for new concepts, complaints and contributions. A final example of creating lines of communication with the community involves the use of social media, through Facebook and What’s App, which is particularly important as there are few mediums of local news dispersal.

Phase 4 – Empowering socially sustainable transformation

The “empowerment” phase ensures that programs and tools are in the hands of local communities. This strengthens a sense of responsibility and collective culture as programs need to be adapted to meet new needs. The stage is ongoing, as it allows for evaluation of the costs and outcomes of a project plus the opportunity to recalibrate and improve existing plans. Agreement with local business, local municipalities and NGOs are secured during this phase so the local community is involved in co-designing and monitoring the program. In this case, an understanding of local concerns, represented in Fig. 5, was incorporated into the plan for a recycling center that collects both post-consumer goods and beach plastic, but there was little room for co-creating those operations. Moving forward, there is a need to provide tools to collectively evaluate the effectiveness of and community satisfaction with the current project. Because of the ecological vulnerabilities of the area, it is crucial to monitor and modify local action plans to enhance skill building and participation.

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