How to safely ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ during a quarantine

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: May 21st, 2020

COVID-19 has forcibly changed nearly everyone’s daily routine, often bringing immense uncertainty and heartache into people’s lives. With an increase in single-use plastics and decrease in recycling services for some, the pandemic has presented challenges for upholding green efforts. The CONCERVA Network – a Costa Rican coalition of waste and recycling collectors – reports that recycling centers across the nation have seen reductions between 40 and 60 percent in the tonnage of materials they receive.

The Recycling Center at EARTH

The Recycling Center at EARTH

“Currently, the system of differentiated waste collection is on hold for many Costa Rican households, but we must not lose the habit of separating our waste. People should designate a space to store recyclables until the quarantine passes,” states Manrique Arguedas,  Environmental Action Unit Coordinator at EARTH University. According to Costa Rica’s municipal-development institute IFAM, more than 4,000 tons of solid waste are generated daily in the country, but only 6.6 percent of it is processed at recycling centers.

To minimize household waste and prevent the possible closure of recycling centers, try to:

  • Purchase responsibly, opting especially for locally produced, plastic-free products.
  • Properly store your produce. Arrange the items in your cupboards and refrigerator by best-by date, so the oldest ones will get used first.
  • Collect biodegradable food waste (fruit cores, vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, etc.) to make compost for your garden.
  • Hold on to all recyclable packaging (aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, glass bottles, hard-plastic shells, etc.) until access to recycling facilities is restored.
Students sorting waste at the Recycling Center

Students sorting waste at the Recycling Center

In these turbulent times, it is also important for people affected by COVID-19 and their caregivers to properly manage sanitary waste. Karol Villalobos, nurse for EARTH’s Medical Services Unit,  recommends following the guidelines stipulated by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health. Tips include placing a trashcan – preferably with a lid and foot pedal – in the infected person’s room, for easy disposal of materials such as gloves, facial tissues and facemasks; tying shut the plastic bag before removing it from the can and discarding it directly in an exterior garbage bin; and washing separately – with soap and an assigned sponge – the cutlery and dishware used by the infected person.

“Sorting waste during a pandemic can be an opportunity to strengthen familial bonds while also helping the environment,” Villalobos says. “Whenever we are busy with activities like this, we partake in a positive exercise for our mental health.”

EARTH is committed to demonstrating environmental responsibility and expanding sustainable practices inside and outside our campuses. Join us and lead your own effort!

To read more about how EARTH University advances a culture of reduce, reuse and recycle, please click here.