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Costa Rica hopes to re-use plastic as building materials for houses

November 4, 2019

Costa Rica produces a lot of plastic waste.

Citing figures from the Ministry of Health, Casa Presidencial says Costa Rica produces 564 tons of plastic waste each day and that nearly 98% of it ends up in landfills, sewers, rivers or the ocean.

On Friday, the Institute for Rural Development (Inder) and the Municipality of Mora in Ciudad Colón, San José announced an initiative intended to convert some of that plastic waste into useable building material.

Their goal is to open a plant that can transform discarded plastics into uniform blocks with which to build houses, agricultural facilities, communal halls and other structures, according to Casa Presidencial.

While still in the planning stages, the municipality hopes to construct the plant in Piedras Negras, a district that borders the Virilla River — which carries much of the Central Valley’s waste to the Pacific Ocean.

The initiative is part of Costa Rica’s national decarbonization plan, which aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

“[The project] arises as an integral response to a complex issue — reducing discarded plastic that ends up in rivers and beaches in our rural areas, which are drowning in garbage and waste,” said Harys Regidor, Inder’s president.

The project is the first of its kind in Costa Rica, but it’s not without precedent. Regidor cited a Colombian company that is building homes out of recycled plastic and has recently expanded to Côte d’Ivoire through a partnership with UNICEF.

The Costa Rican government didn’t provide timelines for its plastics project, though the announcement came at an opportune time.

Earlier last week, the Legislative Assembly passed a watered-down plastics bill that environmentalists and Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez say will do little to curb the country’s plastics problem.

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