By: Andrea Murray, PhD

Posted: September 29, 2015
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Faculty Post

Not All Fun and Games

Costa Rica

Most things we’ve seen so far in Costa Rica have been incredibly beautiful, but yesterday we got an opportunity to see one of the uglier aspects of the country – inadequate waste management.

We left the Center at 6:30 in the morning, and took a bus to the Tárcoles River, where we got on a boat and floated down the river to learn about mangrove ecology. We could see a good amount of trash floating in the river along the boat, but that was nothing compared to what we saw at Playa Azul, the beach at the mouth of the river. This beach was covered with pieces of plastic trash and other items that had been washed ashore out of the river.

Most of this trash, we learned, was coming from San José and the Greater Metropolitan Area of the Central Valley, which is located in the Tárcoles River watershed. Instead of being responsibly disposed of, waste from the city waste ends up in rivers and, eventually, the oceans.

I had known about plastic pollution before this class, but walking down a beach littered in plastic debris helps put it all in perspective. The beach looked more like an apocalyptic wasteland than the famous Costa Rican coast. And the problems from plastic pollution go way beyond just aesthetics; plastic pollution has economic and social consequences for the surrounding community, and biological consequences for wildlife.

I grew up on the beach, so seeing Playa Azul made an especially strong impression on me; it was disappointing and painful to see an environment I love so much destroyed by human carelessness. It may not have been pretty, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it. Playa Azul is a perfect example of why plastics don’t work, and a real life display for why reducing consumption and recycling is so important.

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