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Conservation benefit: Air and water pollution reduction

Community benefit: Trash processing, recycling, and composting facility

Date Approved: 02.2017


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

The Rosario Islands lie off the central coast of Colombia, about 30 miles from Cartagena. The archipelago’s 31 islands and keys contain natural lagoons, mangroves, dry forests, and sandy beaches. The Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, established in 1977, covers approximately 300,000 acres of marine protected area. Tourists come to the islands, many on day trips, to snorkel, dive, or swim.

The reefs around these islands, however, have been damaged by solid waste that washes or is dumped into the ocean. Garbage also pollutes beaches and mangrove forests, threatening sea life, human health, and the tourism industry.

This project—Seacology’s first in Colombia—will fund a modern trash-sorting, recycling, and composting facility on Isla Grande, the largest of the Rosario Islands. It will help the community of Orika turn waste from an environmental burden into a revenue source.

A local cooperative organization, Isla Limpia (Clean Island) will operate the facility, with support from the IslaUnika Foundation, an organization that has been working with the community for several years. The National Learning Service will provide training on how to run the venture efficiently and help with monitoring. Recyclables will be sold to an off-island company, making the facility self-supporting. When trash becomes profitable, there will be an economic incentive for picking it up—and, as a result, a cleaner island.

Project Updates

May 2019

The composting program, the final part of the project, is now in operation. It was designed in collaboration with a local university, to avoid changing the pH of the island’s soil. To promote it, Islaunika has produced a compost “token” tourists can buy. The small hexagonal token is made of clean, dry, pressed compost; tourists can break off a piece and add it to the soil at six cultural and tourist sites around the island.

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December 2018

The waste processing facility is up and running, operated by local people who were trained last fall. Our project partner, Fundación Islaunika, has found three main buyers for different products, including plastic pellets, glass, compacted paper, and more. This project has already brought attention to the issue of waste management on the island. For example, the local government has put up signs, designed in collaboration with the project, explaining how waste should now be handled (bin colors, washing, days of pick up, and so on). There’s even a hashtag: #basuracero, or zero waste.

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May 2018

The waste processing facility has been built; all that remains to be done is to put in wiring (connected to solar panels) and install the doors. Those tasks should be finished soon, and then the processing equipment will be delivered and installed. The facility should be ready to run by the end of July, on schedule. July through October will be dedicated to training the people who will operate the facility and reaching out to households about proper waste management. Islaunika is looking for partners in Cartagena to make sure the waste is recycled.

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January 2018

The waste processing facility, designed after our nonprofit partner, Fundación Islaunika, conducted a study of the amount and kinds of waste produced on the island, is under construction. Appropriate equipment has been bought and will be delivered when the building to house it is ready. Solar panels will be bought in the next couple of months. A committee with people from the community and Islaunika meets regularly. They will be conducting outreach to island households to make sure everyone knows how to handle waste so that reusable materials can be sold for the community’s benefit.

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May 2017

Field representative Ximena Escovar-Fadul reports that community members and our nonprofit partners are working on a plan for purchasing construction materials and equipment, in consultation with environmental engineers and experts in the local and national waste products market. They’ve also been conducting community meetings to keep everyone up to date on developments.

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