Used cooking grease from 30 restaurants in Santa Teresa de Cóbano, one of the most popular beach destinations in Guanacaste, is providing cooking gas for the local Tourism Police precinct.
Local group Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper implemented the project last year with help from the Department of Sustainable Development of the Organization of American States.
Local company Viogaz built the biodigester that’s turning the grease into cooking gas. Viogaz director Joaquín Víquez said it’s a miniaturized, affordable version of an industrial reactor.
Carolina Chavarría Pozuelo, executive director of Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper, said that after a testing stage last year, the biodigester began processing wastewater and producing biogas in January.
At its current capacity, the biodigester is expected to collect and process some 3.6 tons of grease this year from the participant restaurants, she said.
Chavarría said the project’s main goal is to provide an efficient way to reduce pollution in Santa Teresa, located on the Nicoya Peninsula, and keep waste away from the beach and out of the ocean.
She said pollution problems in the coastal community are the result of various factors, but mostly the improper handling of solid and liquid waste from residents, and the lack of wastewater treatment. Local businesses usually opt to pour wastewater directly into holes in the ground, into rivers or the ocean.
Chavarría said she hopes more restaurants join the initiative in order to keep expanding sustainable solutions to wastewater problems in the popular destination.
Tourism is the main source of employment in Santa Teresa.
According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board, there are some 130 restaurants and kitchens at hotels and other businesses along Santa Teresa’s 12-kilometer coastline.
The area has a population of about 5,000 inhabitants. According to the tourism board, some 150,000 tourists visit the beach every year.