THE concept of recycling slipped intothe minds of Costa Ricans with their firsttaste of canned beer.According to Sergio González, directorof the National Center for Productivity(CEPRONA), it was not until 1992 – thefirst year beer cans were used here insteadof returnable glass bottles – that CostaRicans began to consider processing andreusing their waste.Since then, through the efforts of governmentinstitutions, transnational companies,environmental groups, business executivesand concerned residents, recyclinghas come a long way.Not far enough, however, since manyCosta Ricans remain unaware of the benefitsof recycling.DURING the first RecyclingSymposium and Exposition in CostaRica, held this week at the Best WesternIrazú Hotel in San José to share recyclingtools and knowledge, González drewattention to the fact much work remainsto be done to perfect the country’s recyclingsystem.“A nation’s attitude will not changefrom one day to the next,” said the head ofCEPRONA, a non-profit organization created14 years ago to improve productivityand quality of life in Costa Rica.“We have not received support fromthe government. The Ministry of PublicHealth has no funds and by law, theEnvironment Ministry is not obligated toassist us because our organic law fails toeven mention the topic of solid waste,” hetold The Tico Times during the symposium.Teresita Lechado, from the Ministry ofPublic Health, agreed.“Here at the Ministry of Health wedon’t have a penny. Non-profits cannotbe asking the government for funds,” shesaid.LECHADO is national coordinatorof the ministry’s Ciudades Limpias project,which aims to train 10 communitiesto implement a recycling strategy with¢120 million ($255,000) the ComptrollerGeneral’s Office approved for the project.Only 32 of Costa Rica’s 81 municipalitiesuse landfills considered acceptable,while 57% of them do not dispose ofgarbage adequately, said Ricardo Torres,advisor for the Pan-American HealthOrganization (OPS), during his presentationat the conference.Many have no recycling programs.“All conservation areas in Costa Ricarecycle,” said Marta Alvarez, environmentaleducator from the Ministry of theEnvironment and Energy (MINAE).However, MINAE is not involved in settingup recycling centers or collectinggarbage, she explained.Although the Costa Rican governmenthas been unable to finance CEPRONA’srecycling efforts, the Japanese Embassydonated $36,000 to fund the symposium,shoot a 20-minute recycling-educationvideo, build a new Web page at www.redcicla.org and sponsor 25 training programs.“REDCICLA, CEPRONA’s mainrecycling project, directly coincides withone of the Japanese government’s priorityareas in international cooperation: theenvironment,” said Mayumi Hashimoto,economy and cooperation attaché for theJapanese Embassy in San José.González’s training in Japan, one of thetwo leading nations in recycling along withBrazil, makes him a trustworthy pioneerfor the experience in Costa Rica, accordingto Hashimoto.The Redcicla project was born in 2001to educate the public and unite the disjointedrecycling efforts of institutions throughoutthe country, González explained.AMONG the strongest communityrecycling programs in Costa Rica is theEscazú Municipality’s, he said.The “Escazú Recicla” project resultedfrom the collaboration of the University ofTexas with the western suburb’s municipalityin 2001.Escazú Mayor Marco Antonio Seguraexplained the municipality allocates ¢1million (approximately $2,100) per monthtoward their recycling project.“We have stopped dumping ourgarbage at the Río Azul landfill. Awomen’s association, Asofamisae, hasbeen trained to separate and classifygarbage at the recycling center in SanAntonio,” Segura said.In Escazú, recyclable material is collectedonce a week or biweekly. For information,call the municipality at 228-5757.ANOTHER program that operatessuccessfully on a voluntary basis is theMata Redonda recycling campaign in SanJosé.Every month, people can drop off theirclean, sorted recyclables in the parking lotof Perpetuo Socorro Church in Sabana Sur,west of San José, where the group has setup a recycling center, or 325 meters southof Pop’s in Sabana Oeste, according toMata Redonda Recycling spokesmanAndrés Boza.The group will collect garbage for the17th time April 9 from 9:30 a.m.-1:30p.m.For more information, call 823-0230.This week’s symposium also includedexhibitions, including a recycled-artbooth representing artists from the westernsuburb of Santa Ana, and recycledplastic products such as roof tiles andplanters.For more information about recyclingefforts in Costa Rica, call 203-1512 and293-8072.