Recycling in Huatulco

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 3.25.54 PMBy Julie Etra

Recycling in Huatulco has always puzzled me, so with encouragement and assistance of fellow Eye openers I agreed to write about the subject. Being a born skeptic and knowing that recycling can actually be costly, and in some places is subsidized, I wondered if indeed it is occurring here and if all the sorted materials actually reach processing plants. Large population centers, where materials to be recycled are usually processed, are far from Huatulco.

When my husband and I first visited Huatulco in 2007 we learned the town had received the Green Globe Certification in 2006 as a sustainable tourist community. The certification system has been in place since 1992 and is the tool the travel and tourist industry uses to evaluate destinations in terms of economy, social, and environmental management. As part of the award process, and among a number of other categories, they evaluate waste minimization, reuse, and recycling. Pretty cool, we thought. At that time Fonatur had set up separate bins for aluminum/tin, glass, and plastic bottles. Since then the station has moved to a bigger yard on Guelaguetza and Vialidad 5 and is the only comprehensive center for drop off and recollection of sorted material in Huatulco. We are used to sorting tin/aluminum, glass, and plastic that Fonatur garbage trucks (we have service 3 times per week) refuse, so to speak, to take to their yard.

So where do the recyclables really go? They go out to the landfill, the plastic bottles get sorted from the hard plastic, ‘Infusion Plástico’ trucks pick up the bottles, they are then moved to the big pile on the north side of the greenhouses, and then hauled to Puebla. All the materials collected by Fonatur, plus what is independently brought out to the dump, are sorted again by employees or workers, some of whom live out there and make their living through this process. Most of these workers wear safety vests. I was told some material goes to Puerto Escondido and others to Oaxaca. It is a business. I did not see green waste when I was out there but I assume that’s where all the trimmings go. With the large population of vultures, as well as dogs, the place is pretty picked over.

On March 2, 2014, Fonatur in conjunction with the municipality, the Green Team, the Hotel Association, and CONAGUA launched their ground-breaking program of residential pick up services along with the first phase of the expansion of the waste water treatment plant. Organic waste is picked up Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday along with general types of garbage such as disposable diapers, animal waste, and what is considered organic but potential contaminating material such as meat wrappers. On Tuesday and Thursday other recyclables such as glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, Tetra Pak (coated paper milk and juice containers), and polystyrene are collected. This service is not available in all neighborhoods and as of this writing I am not sure where service will be provided in the future.

There was also a meeting here at the Crown Pacific about a month ago on solid waste management and another one in San Miguel Suchixtepec on March 17, organized by the same group, the State Institute of Ecology for the Inter municipial Plan for Solid Waste Management (Instituto Estatal de Ecología para el Plan Intermunicipal para el Manejo de Residuos).

Things are happening in Huatulco, with volunteers like the Green Team, and professional organizations including the World Wildlife Fund and Earth Check, along with innovative hard working Huatulqueños, really trying to achieve a more ‘sustainable’, or at least less wasteful, cleaner, environment.

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