Monday, January 5, 2015

Conciencia Ecológica, or How Not to Recycle in Xela

Text and photos by Amy Scheuren

The Pop Wuj Recycling Project sounds simple.  We collect plastic, glass, aluminum, tin/junk metal, and mixed paper at Pop Wuj and in Llanos del Pinal at the Family Support Center.  Then we sell the materials to local, private recyclers and those profits go back in to the Environmental Projects Benefit Fund. 

Plastic that we've collected since the end of August
We strive to reduce and reuse first, but we always have recyclables that Pop Spanish students and teachers bring to the school to recycle.  There is no recycling system in Guatemala and even trash collection is unknown outside of cities and large towns.  We encourage the Family Support Center participants and the Safe Stove Project families to bring their plastic to the Center. 

There is no waste management system in Llanos del Pinal so families typically give their food waste to their animals/livestock and burn the rest of their trash.  Unfortunately modern trash includes A LOT of plastic, including bottles, containers, and junk food bags.

Bags and bags of glass

On Monday December 15th, we decided to clear the Pop Wuj roof and take all of our recyclable materials to a local recycling center.  We loaded the pick up truck and tied everything down with 40 yards of brand new rope.  Recycling should take about an hour, but not on this day!

Starting to pack Wilder's truck

Using that brand new rope!

Adam, admiring their work
We got a late start, an hour and a half late, but we were on the road by about 11am.  Then we were stopped two times by the police--likely looking for pinabete Christmas trees (which are endangered) and/or drugs.

We finally arrived at Recip, a recycling center on the highway to the coast, and they said they were closed and not buying materials.  This is typical.  Businesses always change whether they are accepting, what they are accepting, and how much they pay per pound.  So we continued to another site that previously accepted plastic.  Unfortunately they were not accepting plastic either.  However the owner told us about another center that we had not heard of before.  We traveled to Recicladora Velasquez on the Periférico.

Suerte!  Finally we found a center that was accepting recyclables.  We recycled 161 lbs of plastic, 75 lbs of glass, and 11 lbs of aluminum.

Adam, unloading the plastic at the third center

Weighing the plastic

Unfortunately the recycling center didn't have any cash on hand so they couldn't pay us for the materials.  We had to return later the same day to receive the payment.  Following a few bus mishaps, we arrived at the recycling center before closing time and learned that we had actually earned a total of Q130 or about $17 USD instead of the anticipated Q100. 

Getting back to Xela proved even more difficult.  No buses wanted to stop along the Periférico, so we walked for 30 minutes to the rotunda with the migrant/traveler statue and finally caught a bus, arriving back at Pop Wuj around 6pm.

A much longer day than expected for the recycling, but as Carmencita said, we have quite an ecological conscience.  Special thanks to Adam and Wilder for their help and patience!

The clear roof/recycling storage area at Pop Wuj

Xela dusk from a clear roof

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