CRUSHED Fanta bottles and last year’s phone books havespawned small businesses in communities around Costa Rica.Though Ticos generally did not grow up with cartoon charactersand people in animal suits trumpeting the virtues of recycling trashlike they do in other countries, a wave of recycling programs haveswept through area municipalities in the last few months.And these programs don’t just help the environment – they havegenerated part-time jobs for mothers and extra income for truck drivers.In some cases, the programs are run by volunteers.In Alajuela, members of the municipality work with schools inthe downtown area and in Barrio La Trinidad in a new recyclingprogram (it’s only one month old). There, residents haul plasticbags full of recycling materials such as glass, plastic, paper, andaluminum to the Salón Comunal (a place for community activities)where recyclables are accepted on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon.Proceeds aid in the maintenance of Alajuela green areas. For info,call 440-7105.The recycling program in Escazú started two years ago as asmall enterprise project by seven women. A truck picks up thematerials, which should be separated in baskets in front of everyhouse, and takes them to a warehouse to be processed. The municipalitysells the baskets to residents for ¢2,000 ($4.60).NOW there are several established truck routes for pick-up:Bello Horizonte and Laureles in San Rafael on alternatingMondays, San Antonio and Northwest San Rafael on alternatingTuesdays, Jaboncillo and Guachipelín every other Wednesday andSan Miguel every other Friday.Those whose homes are not on any route can bring their recyclablesto the municipality building or the storage center, where thewomen will separate it. The group is planning to install mini-centersfor collecting recyclables in the communities that are off theestablished routes and are looking at the possibility of asking needy families to allow storage in theirhomes in exchange for a fee.The women earn 33% of the totalincome, split between five of them for anaverage of ¢52,800 ($122) to ¢66,000($152) per month. What is left of theremaining percentage of the income isspent on business expenses and anythingleft over in the non-profit project is givenback to the community.They also give educational chats toschools, telling kids what things can berecycled and how to separate them, saidproject coordinator Nudia Vargas. For moreinfo, call 288-3730.In Concepción de Tres Ríos, east of SanJosé, the students of the Instituto EducativoModerno collect materials from home andtake them to school where they have a classon recycling. The general public can jointhe project by contacting the Tres RíosMunicipality at 279-9172.San Pedro’s program, also east of SanJosé, is brand new. A group of 18 mothersgot it out of the planning stages just overfour months ago. Using a storage center anda truck on loan from the municipality, theycollect recyclable materials from the community,separate them in their storage centerand sell them to private businesses. Thecenter is a former police station that will beremodeled to fit their needs, on loan for 99years from the municipality. The group’sdriver picks up glass, aluminum, plastic andpaper from the homes of people who leavebags of recyclables along the main street inthe morning.With the financial support of the DutchFundecooperación Foundation, the womenhave been trained in small business managementand in the handling of recycledmaterials. They now give lessons as guestspeakers to schools in the community.THEIR efforts have met some success,according to Laura Gadaluz, one of theorganizers. Many businesses and residentshave called requesting regular pick-ups.Luz Amalia, president of the educationcommittee for the project, said the projecthas two goals: easing the burden of trash onthe environment, and putting some moneyin the pockets of women who have hadtrouble finding jobs that give them timewith their families. For more info on theproject and pick-ups, call Sandra LorenaCambronera, the project’s president, at273-1065, or Amalia at 272-7191.The Municipality of San Isidro hascoordinated its recycling program with severalbusinesses, including five lawyers’offices, the Union of Cane Growers andProcessors and 600 private homes. AnaVillalobos, a representative of the project,said those involved pass out informationalpamphlets to educate people about recycling.“It’s a very difficult job because inCosta Rica people don’t do this (recycle),”Villalobos said.Those who want to deposit recyclablescan arrange for pick-up at a house or neighborhoodcenter. For info, call 268-8591.Puntarenas citizens and visitors candeposit recyclable materials in hugelabeled cans at Paseo de los Turistas orcontact one of the women atCoopeprogreso. The women travel throughdowntown Puntarenas and El Roble, bybike or on foot collecting the materials leftin front of the houses in transparent plasticbags every day and sell them to KimberlyClark (a tissue company) or the CerveceríaCosta Rica (a brewery) to support theirfamilies. The Mixed Institute of Social Aid(IMAS) lends a hand to the group, whichcan be contacted at 661-4691 or 661-0070.PLAYA Hermosa in Guanacaste, on thenorthern Pacific coast, started up a volunteer-based recycling program one year ago.There are four places to deposit materials:the Villa del Sueño Hotel, Villas CelinasHotel, Super Baye supermarket, and TresAmigos real estate. They accept recyclableglass, plastic and cans. Atruck driver makesrounds collecting the trash when the canistersare full and sells it to make it worth hiswhile. For more info, call CrispinaCarmona of the Playa Hermosa Associationat 672-0108, or Villa del Sueño Hotel at672-0026, or e-mail [email protected] Viejo, on the SouthernCaribbean coast, has a thriving, six-year oldrecycling program handled by theRecycling Association of the Caribbean. Itcoordinates pick-ups four times a week forrecyclable plastic, glass and aluminum.Rachel Thomas, president of the association,said the problem with trash on thebeach was “grave,” so they began the projectas a service to businesses. Public recyclingstations are made from recycled plasticand say so with signs that read “this stationis made from the same material youare recycling.”Last year they recycled 26 tons ofmaterials, she said. They are trying to put astation in every area school, and thoseschools that recycle a certain amount willreceive a playground made from some ofthose same materials. For more info, call750-0237.Tico Times reporter Steven J. Barrycontributed to this article.