Managing NGO(s), country: Asociación de Amigos y Vecinos de la Costa y la Naturaleza (AAMVECONA), Panamá; Fauna & Flora International (FFI); Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), Regional.
Project director(s): Didiher Chacón-Chaverri
Summary: In the coastal areas of Central America, solid waste management is facing severe problems and trash often ends up in rivers and in the sea. Some of the most commonly found articles in trash found on beaches are plastics bags similar to those given out in supermarkets. Plastic bags wind up on the bottom of the sea and the presence of bags suffocating several species of coral has been documented in the Costa Rican Caribbean; in other cases they are consumed by wildlife, which can lead to death. The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) confuses the bags with jellyfish, its primary food source, making a mistake that can be fatal. This project aims to convert used bags into plastic thread that women from local communities can weave or crochet into beautiful bags that are washable, colorful, artistic, and useful – an excellent, innovative solution.
Donors: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, United States; Ocean Conservancy, United States; people who buy the bags and other products, such as the National Marine Life Center, Sea Turtle Inc., Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Luna Lodge, Lapa Ríos Ecolodge, INBIO, and others.
Principle Accomplishments: Collected and reused more than 50,000 plastic bags in 2007; worked with more than 220 pounds (100 kg) of collected bags each month; placed collection containers in 12 supermarkets in the Automercado chain; organized groups of weavers in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, representing more than 100 women; made approximately $20,000 in sales, 80% of which went to the women weavers; and participated in four environmental fairs in Costa Rica.
Lessons Learned: Plastics are like diamonds – they last forever; this project is an alternative for reusing plastics, but we should motivate society to stop using them or to dispose of them correctly; the primary reduction of plastics occurs in the community and it can be expanded from there to other areas; communities need training and organization to figure out how to sell the products they make and be competitive; the best marketing opportunities are through international NGOs; this is an innovative, environmentally-friendly product that transforms the weaknesses of plastics into strengths; the direct income to the women increases their stimulation, participation, and involvement; there will always be unfair competition (some people are using new plastic bags!), or those who want to pay very little for these products, which require so much effort to create.
Contacts: Didiher Chacón-Chaverri, WIDECAST. Tibás, 200 m norte y 25 m oeste a la Municipalidad de Tibás, San José, Costa Rica, Apartado Postal 2164-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica. Tel: +506/2241-7431; Fax: +506/2241-7149. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, www.latinamericanseaturtles.org.