Proceedings from the ZWIA International Dialogue

 Hosted by Alianza Zero Waste Costa Rica

ZWIA International Dialogue Summary

Photos from the event

Sunday, December 4: Triatlón and Zero Waste Audit

6:00AM Triathlon Quepos (Marina Pez Vela) :  Annemarie Sauter, Zero Waste Costa Rica, 

Pål Mårtensson, World Cleanup Day- ZWIA and Andrés Bermudez, Director Clean Wave collaborated with the Triatlon to minimize waste during the event.  

10:00AM to 2:00 PM: 35 Volunteers led by Victor Arce, ACOS and Daniela Ochoa, from Regenerative Solutions performed a clean up and a brand audit. Andrés Terán from Zero Waste Costa Rica, Jamie Kaminski, Zero Waste Canada – ZWIA, Teresa Bradley, Race to Zero and Dorte from Zero Waste New Zealand, collaborated in the performance of the audit. 

Monday, December 5: Resin 8 tour and Poás Volcano

Donald Thomson, CEO and Founder of CRDC and David Zamora from Pedregal shared the history of Resin8, Resin8C and provided a guided tour to the Resin8 plant.  RESIN8 is a long-term environmentally friendly solution where the plastic industry waste stream becomes the raw material and value stream for the construction and building industry, such as homes built by Habitat for Humanity and pavement for roads in Costa Rica. RESIN8 accepts any type of plastic waste (Resins 1-7), diverting it away from landfills or incineration (retrieved from 

Followed by a epic Trip to the Poás Volcano with favorable weather 

Tuesday, December 6: Global Challenges – Best Practices around the world, Part I                 

Opening: Elena Mateo, Director Zero Waste Costa Rica and Ruth Abbe, President Zero Waste USA

Guest: Monica Araya, Presidenta Ejecutiva Instituto Nacional de Seguros

Karla Chavez welcomed us by exhorting costarica into a deep dive for circular literacy. “some of us can’t think in eco-design and others in just recycling… we all need to be in the same page to have a better direction and avoid a babel tower syndrome”

Openings by Ruth Abbe, President Zero Waste USA and  Monica Araya Esquivel, executive president of Instituto Nacional de Seguros, (INS). She shared about how their sponsorship for our dialogue aligns with Costa Rica’s commitment to peace, clean energy and biodiversity. INS invested in supporting Costa Rica to move forward our national journey towards Zero Waste. 

1. Introduction and the importance of Zero Waste in Costa Rica. Elena Mateo provided us a contextual framework of the scope of mismanaged waste  “more than 500 tons/day adding up to 2.1 millions tons/year and generating 15% of the Costa Rica GHG”. Then, Elena shared how their National Decarbonization Plan (ENRVR) prioritizes methane reduction, and emcompasses their national strategy for resource recovery, including Costa Rica’s national composting plan and the 8839 law. She emphasized the importance of education to deepen national awareness for Zero Waste to young and old with their drawing national contest. Also the ZWIA members supporting the triatlón clean-up, working arm in arm with costarican NGOs, to empower them and perform together a zero waste audit, are demonstrative of Zero Waste Costa Rica’s commitment.

2. Zero Waste & the Importance of Upstream. Jamie Kaminski, from Zero Waste Canada presented a broad overview of the Zero Waste International Alliance. He highlighted the Zero Waste definition, Zero Waste hierarchy, and Zero Waste vision and mission as key guiding documents which explain the essence as well as the technical aspects of the Zero Waste movement. He also explained the fundamental concepts of why the burning and destruction of resources even when energy is recovered, is fundamentally in opposition to a Zero Waste ethos, driving more resource extraction and increasing the need for consumption. During his presentation Jamie explained that Zero Waste activities are most beneficial at the reduction and reuse activities, with recycling and composting a last resort. 

3. Garbage Does Not Exist, “A world of users and not of consumers” Christopher Brosse, shared the butterfly diagram to highlight the difference between technical materials and biological materials as the basis for 1. Design and 2. Reuse to achieve a constant flow between users and products with successful programs like “Al Grano” and Bosch, and also emphasized  3.The Regeneration of Ecosystems as a key component for a real circular economy.

4. Circular economy and Traceability, ECOINS. Karla Chavez understands how “Size matters, the bigger the company the more they should get involved in the management of their packaging and adjust to make them truly circular”. She showed us how ECOINS is the first system that rewards the circular economy and the transition towards responsible consumption in which 123,000 families are already participating using its 450 exchange points.  “Limpio, seco, separado” (Clean, dry and separated) is a key practice for their success. Her partnership with GS1 Costa Rica uses products barcode system for data integration and traceability. This is the type of investment that can push the needle in the short term not only in CR but also abroad. “Barcodes are the perfect tool of the linear economy, and could become the perfect tool of the circular economy”.In partnership with GEZ de economia circular and Santa Barbara University, ECOINS is investing in a video game and other resources to entertain and empower kids to maximize recycling at home and adopt proactive zero waste habits.

5. Basura Cero Global.Sandra Pinzón, Director of Basura Cero Global, showed us her work on management models, knowledge democratization,and comprehensive solid waste and circular economy management. She shared access to all her publications and highlighted a few success stories performing zero waste management systems (CSGBC) certification in Ecuador, Uruguay and Brazil. Her organization outreach extends to 80 organizations, 800 auditors and 500 management tools implementers. Their main focus is on launching a new global voluntary program for the circular economy of materials (PVEC), which issues credits for plastics and thereby finances the promotion of solutions in solid waste management.

6. Blue Agenda: Great Pacific Garbage Patch & Fate of the Oceans & View of the Plastic Plague . Captain Charles Moore from Agalita,  joined us virtually and took us on a hard-hitting, poetic journey explaining and pointing out to the deeper and systemic reasons for plastic pollution in the Subtropical Gyres. 

7.  CRDC journey into Resin8. Donald Thomson, CEO of CRDC, shared about his partnership with Brett Howell, Pedregal  and others to produce Resin 8 and Resin8c, as construction upcycled 

materials for construction. CRDC is partnering with Habitat for Humanity and others to deliver floor tiles made with Resin8 to many countries. Their manufacturing plants are in Costa Rica, Samoa, and Pennsylvania. RESIN8 utilizes any type of plastic waste (Resins 1-7) as its main component. “The bag that builds’ ‘ is one of the mechanisms used by CRDC to collect the resins 1-7 embedded in Resin 8, those in tragic conditions captured from the ocean to turn them into building blocks and floors.

8.The Explorers 50: Fifty People Changing the World.  Brett Howell, Executive Director and Founder, Howell Conservation Fund, Brett Howell, a true venture philanthropist, shared with us about this incredible expedition to Henderson Island. Brent, also shared how Resin 8’s as an tangible solution for closing the circular economy loop has won the support of the Howell Conservancy Fund as pioneers propellers of CRDC Expansion.

9. Let’s Do It, Global Plastic Treaty.  Pal Martensson, emphasized that more than 4 billion people like to consume like the so-called Western World, to reflect without the implications of such impact. “Zero Waste is a much more and deeper system than waste, it brings community together and strengthens our relationships with nature and each other”. 

10. Strategies to stop the plastic tide, actions, policies and shortfalls from Europe. Enzo Favoino, from Zero Waste Europe provided an overview of the issues around plastics and their leakage into the environment. He then discussed strategies to tackle the problem, based on published research which includes dispersion modeling and the contribution potential of reduction, reuse, recycling etc. Enzo also highlighted key elements in the European Union agenda on plastics, including the Single-use Plastic Directive and the proposed Regulation on Packaging and Packaging Waste (both start drawing attention to reduction and reuse, besides aiming at recycling consolidation). He also mentioned specific initiatives by ZWE and other NGOs working on the issue, such as “We choose reuse” and the “Reuse Vanguard Project”. 

11. Roundtable on success cases on special types of plastics management.

(Presentación de casos de éxito para el reciclaje de plástico PVC, billetes y residuos bioinfecciosos)

Karla Chaves, moderator.

  • Silvia Quesada Morales, Aliaxis, sustainability director, spoke about their innovative pilot program that minimizes PVC pipe waste and establishes fully circular economy systems throughout Costa Rica. 
  • Javier Andino MarencoCCL Segure Central Bank Technical Services Manager, was delighted to share about the beauty and security, but also the longevity and circularity of now the entire family of Costa Rican banknotes
  • Andrea Rojas, CEO  of Bio361, amazed us with the medical waste upcycling projects that her company is carrying out. Venture capitalist, keep an eye for Bio361!

12. Reuse Revolution, Chrise de Tournay, profiled Muuse, Green-to-Go, and Buoy, three companies that portray how entrepreneurs are providing solutions to comply with laws and policies addressing reduction of single-use foodware across the world. Various operations of collection, washing, and servicing restaurants are being explored, as well as product types and materials used in the wares. Replacing current products and models with reusable, durable ware that functions with user-friendly “check-out” mechanisms with data tracking, allows customers to obtain a clean vessel from a restaurant and then return it after use, similar to a lending library model. These closed loop Reusable Foodware Systems are fast becoming key players in engendering meaningful customer behavior change, resulting in reduction of wasteful disposable foodware items, increase of materials conservation, and a healthier environment – and ultimately saves money for both businesses and communities.

13. Recycling practices in Costa Rica. Kristian Federspiel is the CEO West Coast Waste (WCW). WCW is the main material recovery facility (MRF) enterprise in Costa Rica, with one MRF in San Jose, one new MRF to start soon in northwest Costa Rica, and 2 more warehouses across the country, WCW exports 100-120 containers per month, about 1015 US tons (921,000 kgs) of 14 different types of material (mainly OCC and cardboard, aluminum and some plastics 1 and 2). Kristian cherishes how Costa Rica is home for 5% of the world biodiversity, as a motivation to responsibly ramp the low 6% recycling national rate. Their new partnership with Resin8 will allow them to channel plastics 4-8. WCW is also piloting some cornerback containers for shipments and also some social plastic waste collection programs that aim to bring job opportunities to CR poorest regions. WCW also partners with Mareblue and other grassroots NGOs to clean beaches to benefit tourism, but also for job creation and our ecosystem health. Kristian is exploring organic waste potential for more efficient hydrogen extraction.

14. Roundtable: Food and beverage industry insights and milestones. 


  • George Gatlin, Director of Invema Group
  • Gerardo Miranda, FIFCO (beer brewery, bottled water, juices and bought Pepsi) 
  • Elizabeth Valverde, Nestlé
  • Mario Montero, Costarican Chamber of  Food Industry CACIA (Cámara de Alimentos de CR de la Industria Alimentaria)

In this roundtable Inverna, FIFCO, Nestlé and CACIA shared insights about their industrial journeys growing in awareness, and integrating zero waste practices in their internal processes,  their packages and into their social responsibility investments.  

First, George Gatlin, unfolded the vulnerability of PET commodity pricing and the need for stronger synergies and long term zero waste commitment between the main bottle manufacturer and the beverage companies, not only in Costa Rica, but worldwide. To achieve this commitment, Zero Waste and circular education is needed not just for consumers but for all those in the supply chain, specially those on procurement that can purposefully decide to invest and include post-consumer inputs and raise recycled thresholds percentages when designing their bottles and their annual budgets.

Then, Gerardo Miranda, shared how by incorporating social and environmental variables into the business model, all their business decisions have shifted. From resource allocation, to staff evaluation, to decisions big and small throughout their company. FIFCO’s new goal is to generate positive environmental value. In 2020, they managed to recover the equivalent to the100% of  plastic containers that they placed on the market. Their container recovery program was born in 2005 and has evolved since. FIFCO containers are 100% recyclable, and for some brands, they have incorporated up to 100% recycled PET resin into the bottle. FIFCO also bottles PEPSICO beverages and for some of their containers they have embedded up to 50% recycled resin.

Elizabeth Valverde, shared some waste reduction steps Nestlé is taking to become emissions neutral throughout all their value chain by 2050 as smart packaging, inclusion of “recyclable” materials and In Costa Rica specifically, a consumer education ecosystem was launched called Mundo Re. Through this program, Nestlé has offered up to 60 post-consumer plastic collection points for consumers. “Internally we negotiate, inspire and educate the 2000 brand managers and other key decision makers to change behavior”. Maggy led by example where the plastic collected in those 60 points became input for upcycled tables that we donated to schools. 

Mario Montero, is proud of the tangible progress many national entrepreneurs are facing implementing solutions to address their energy, carbon and nutritional footprints. This goes beyond the packaging.     As sustainability intertwines with health challenges, ingredients become key. 64% of the food enterprises nationwide have less than 5 employees. Financial sustainability is a priority for them, before zero waste. The biggest organic waste that we need to tackle as food manufacturers, is the one occurring from strict procurement processes that exacerbate farm-to-factory and pre-consumer waste. All panelists agree that when it comes to organics recovery and a true circular economy nationwide, the main barrier comes down to education and shared responsibility, scale for benefit-cost analysis, and last but not least the accumulation of policies and long-term business strategies.

Wednesday, December 7: Global Challenges – Best Practices around the world, Part 2

15. Municipality Best Practices in in the US Ruth Abbe, Presidente Zero Waste USA

Shared with us the most important roadmap principles on a Zero Waste journey. A) Understanding  what is thrown away. (Palo Alto); B) Follow the hierarchy, rethink/redesign, reuse (Berkeley); C) Implementing policy programs and infrastructure.(Delaware County, PA); D)Provides services for everyone (San Jose, CA) and E) Prioritize community based solutions (Baltimore, MD).   

16. Roundtable on Municipality Best Practices in Materials Management  

      (Mejores prácticas en la gestión de materiales)

      Valentina Paris, moderator 

  • Ing. Eugenio Androvetto, Director of Radiological and Environmental Health within our Health Ministry.Eugenio, provided an overview of national waste management laws and their milestones closing 46 out of their 48 dumpsites and opening 8 properly regulated landfills. In the last 8 years, the national recycling diversion rate rose from 1.4% to 9.5% or their overall national waste generated. Costa Rica’s Ley General de Salud, marked a tipping point for this advancement and preceded the creation of their organic waste management plan (2020-2050). Evermore, Costa Rica’s Law for comprehensive waste management calls out all federal agencies, private businesses, and all residents to work and participate in a circular economy plan and adopt EPR measures, to maximize our local circularity and minimize our dependency from global commodity pricing fluctuation. For example, as electric transportation has led to hazardous lithium discards. Costa Rica brought international funds to strengthen FORTHECH’s capabilities for proper lithium recycling. Finally, Eugenio acknowledged how policy development must keep up with the fast pace in which technology develops. “We are working on EPR policies and regulations for electronics”. “Costa Rica has pledged for plastic beverage and single use packaging waste reduction with the OECD”. We are embarking on international cooperation as we strive to double efforts to catch up with our waste reduction lag. 
  • Teresita Granados, Director of Integral Waste Management for Heredia’s County, emphasized how easy access is key for increasing consumer participation in her county and everywhere. By offering recycling collection centers twice a week in 8 centers, Heredia has raised their recycling collection from 10 to 50 tons/month which represents 50% of overall collection in this county. “Our collection averaging 100 tons/month does not yet capture 1% of the 46,000 tons/month of waste generated in Heredia. 13% of our municipal budget is trited in waste management, our overall goal is to be able to re-invest such funds our in community projects”. Heredia’s Home Composting project is a great example. With 850 families and 36 educational centers who have adopted on-site composting practices. “Our focus in minimizing organics is strategic, knowing they are up to 55% of our county’s overall discards. Also to minimize leachate leaks and methane emissions”. Heredia’s second biggest focus is C & D waste, not just because of its volume and weight, but also “we aim to address the lack of infrastructure for this type of materials, once they reach the end of their useful life”.  Finally, Teresita is focusing on being able to properly detect if the main obstacle for success with ZW practices in her community is either budget, outreach or mindset. “We can shift the bigger needle, leading by example is underestimated,and is also our responsibility”. 
  • Maybi Rojas, Environmental Manager of Montes de Oca County. Infrastructure investment, door-to-door campaigns and special collections as medical waste are all part of our comprehensive waste management plan. We strive to keep and expand the “buy-in” commitment from our citizenry. The sustainability and success of our diversion programs need the commitment of all the generators and the application of the waste hierarchy “Our failed rates to sustain success among our home composters evidenced this” We need the on-going participation of the entire community to achieve ZW. Maybe also depicted the need to emphasize reduction as much as we foment proper sorting at home. Being able to implement fines as a last resource tool to nudge behavior and boost participation aligned with our 8839 law. 
  •  Glenda Fernandez, Environmental Manager for the National Union of Local Governments (UNGL)  The UNGL actively searches for International Cooperation funds ( through embassies or through green funds) to support sustainable projects in one county or for joint projects shared among more than one county and the Bandera Azul project. This project helped Glena to  realize which counties are progressing or lagging behind and need support to implement recovery centers. UNGL currently has $320 millions in funds to be devoted to a waste reduction project in Cartago and Desamparados. The aim there will be to make a resource recovery and transformation center, not just to compress, pack and resale bales but to re-manufacture them into products on sight. Finally, Glenda reminded us that meaningful change often comes from the grassroots. We all can advocate from the bottom up, to gain the support of city councils in our counties. We have 32 cantones that are fomenting home composting and one more with a cooperative composting system (at communal de León).  The National Union or local governments (UNGL) has been key in supporting a paradigm shift among how counties conceive the allocation of funds for waste management. The institute of municipal development and advice (IFAM),supports our transversal coordination for proper selective disposal collection not only in urban but also in coastal regions. 

17. The Importance of Upstream. Jamie Kaminski CEO of Zero Waste Canada highlighted the importance of focusing activities upstream with reduction, and reduce activities which include repair, refill, and refurbishment. He highlighted how reuse is the concept of extending the life of an existing product or material and keeping it in its useful form for as long as possible, while recycling is taking a product and material that was discarded and no longer useful in its current form and putting it through a process that would allow it to re-enter the materials economy, keeping those materials in circulation.   

Jamie pointed out that it is important not to set goals that are either or, meaning that we need to be setting separate targets for reuse as well as recycling and composting and that just because we have found a recycling solution for a product, does not mean we should not also look to find a reuse system for that same product or try to extend the life of that product in its current form. 

18. On the Road to Zero Waste in the Philippines. Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation in Philippines, shared the waste composition of the Philippines: 63% compostable, 15% recyclables, 14% residuals, 8% special residuals, and 1% hazardous. spoke about the various zero waste activities happening around the Philippines including their collection and eco parks, and their wonderful schools working towards zero waste.   

19. Dosmil50. Jose Rafael Gonzalez, Director of dosmil50, a compostable packaging manufacturer that supplies the main supermarkets in Costa Rica. As a company in the development stage, aiming to catalyze the implementation of circular economies. As soon as styrofoam got banned nationwide, the need for alternative packaging products became clearneed.Thus, Dosmil50 packaging products are designed with the intent for them to be compostable at industrial composting facilities.

Jose acknowledges the importance of the redesign. As they better understand their packages’ interactions with vegetables as well as their respiration and oxygenation rates, they redesign them to increase their products’ shelf-lives to minimize waste. “It is already a matter of not only looking pretty, but also reducing waste in supermarkets”.

20.  Cody Irwin,  ShareWares presented their convenient tool. A city wide borrowing platform to supply collect, wash and track reusable packaging. This fully circular system is an innovation on the familiar deposit model, making it easier for customers to return and be refunded for these circular packaging for food items. “Our cups break even with paper cups after 4.5 washes.” Their system does not require any bank information and allows users to donate their earnings if they wish to do so. ShareWares’ technology has the ability to unlock EPR in numerous industries including fashion, transport, everyday commodities, and even mattresses! The potential impact to scale this would be phenomenal to addressSDG 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 internationally. With only 1 washing facility, Shear Waves serves 4 municipalities, over 60 retailers (including Tim Hortons) and more than 2500 users, 

21. Zero Waste Schools in Missoula, Montana, US  Jeremy Drake, Zero Waste USA

The Zero Waste effort began in Missoula, Montana by a grassroots effort. Jeremy has been working with the Missoula County Public Schools the past two years. He shared his experiences and recommendation for working with public schools based on what he’s experienced. The school district adopted the six top priorities based on the city’s Zero Waste plan, Zero by Fifty. In 2019 the Zero Waste programs were launched at the district schools. Jeremy and others soon realized that the cafeteria is where the most waste occurs. They created sort lines and replaced toxic and disposable materials with durable and compostable materials. In the cafeterias, they sort into five categories: liquid, reuse (unopened packaged food such as fruit), recycle, compost, and landfill. Their result was a 95% reduction by weight. The critical elements that Jeremy shared are: 1.) Staff buy in is important – custodial staff, food service staff, 2.) Education – in class activity the teachers could do with students, cafeteria help; 3.) Collection – right sizing the dumpsters after the new ZW systems (cost went up with new systems); and 4.) Partnerships – peers help sorting, welding instructors, community partnerships. Jeremy shared that the key takeaways are that it’s all about people. Inclusion is the best avenue to success. Administrative leadership is important. They set expectations and direction. Ownership creates sustainability. Work with what already works.

22.  How can we promote a Zero Waste Culture?. Elena Mateo, Director Zero Waste Costa Rica.  The journey began on December 5th, 2019, when Zero Waste Costa Rica invited Country Day School to host an international and national delegation of experts in zero waste advancing zero waste youth leadership in Costa Rica. Zero Waste Youth Costa Rica was launched with participating schools and universities from around the region. A school-wide Zero Waste audit was conducted and the preliminary results indicated that Country Day is achieving at least a 56 percent diversion rate, meaning that 56 percent of all the discarded materials generated by the campus—by students, administration, landscaping and cafeteria operations—are already being diverted from landfills, thanks to existing recycling and composting programs. In 2020 and 2021, Zero Waste Costa Rica, alongside the CDS green team, launched initiatives at Country Day, such as on-site composting of landscape debris, calculating the benefits of “avoided disposal” achieved by transitioning to all reusable cafeteria trays in lieu of disposables, pairing trash cans with recycling cans, conducting school-wide training of students, faculty and staff, working with CDS’ sister school, the “Colegio Tecnico de Turrubares” to determine the greenhouse gas emissions benefits of reducing waste and properly managing discards; increasing the diversion rate to 65% in 2021. In February 2022, CDS received the prestigious “On the Road to Zero Waste” certification recognition and since then, has been closely working with Zero Waste Costa Rica to continue pursuing sustainability and zero waste goals on and off campus.  CDS became the first school in Costa Rica and the first school in the Nord Anglia group of schools to receive this esteemed recognition. 

23. Europe: Zero Waste Lessons Learned, Enzo Favoino, from Zero Waste Europe highlighted how important it is to get biowaste and organics out of the disposal stream and divert it to composting. This is important for climate change, carbon farming, and waste issues. Soils are important to store carbon, restore fertility, and make land resilient. Food scraps are widely collected in Italy with highly successful systems. Enzo touched base on the different composting systems offered based on the type of community. He recommends targeted food scraps only collection systems in every city. If such a system perceives the need to compostable bags with food scraps, it should only use certified bags. Anaerobic digestion capacity to capture and reuse fossil methane is worth consideration when there are fund to balance the investment cost.  

24. Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), Richard Anthony, ZWIA President. Rick provided an overall timeline of ZWIA and portrayed in detail the Zero Waste declaration that ZWIA produced with ZWIA affiliates. He highlighted how crucial source separation, food surplus rescue, reuse and repair are. ZWIA foments investments and focuses on infrastructure, advocacy and adoption of circular and regenerative practices and policies. “Now that you know this, go out and do this!… Advocate to elected officials that you want a Zero Waste plan. Need a motion and a second to get it moving!….Let’s end unlimited wasting of materials!” Great job Zero Waste San Diego! Rick motivated everyone that ZW can happen!

25. Instituto Lixo Zero Brasil (ILZB), Fátima Langbeck, leader of ILBZ, shared how their mobilization platform Semana Lixo Zero positively expands yearly. With 12 years of existence in 2022, ILZB reached 240 Brazilian cities  throughout 5 regions in Brazil as well as some presence in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia Mexico, Nicaragua, Perú, Paraguay, Uruguay andVenezuela. 

26. Zero Waste in New Zealand Dorte Wray, Exec. Dir. of New Zealand’s Zero Waste Network.  spoke about zero waste initiatives in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Despite its small size and population, Aotearoa has a big waste footprint. Efforts to reduce waste are common and the zero waste network represents 120 organizations who are working towards zero waste. These groups are active in the reduction, reuse and recycling. One important feature of zero waste in Aotearoa is the presence of 20+ Community resource recovery centers. These sites offer a ‘one stop shop’ for all zero waste activities and provide important environmental, cultural, social and local economic development to the communities in which they are based.

27. Zero waste is the next logical step, Pål Mårtensson, appalled by the amount of plastic in the ocean, beaches, and rivers in and near Indonesia, Pal emphasized this is not the consumer’s fault and has one message to the world: “Zero waste is the next logical step” and to reach it we’ll need a systemic change because our “economic mobility represents a direct challenge to  Zero Waste. ” His advice is to consume less, to also decrease our use of energy. “Fix it!” Pal highlighted examples from Japan and Africa “Instead of managing waste, zero waste teaches us to manage resources and eliminate waste” “For a greener future, there is no App you can download, you need to use your brain and hands and do the job”. 

28. Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice, Dennis Uyat Franco, shared how

Indigenous Communities, Black Communities, and Migrant Communities take on more environmental burdens than benefits received by White Communities. Environmental Racism are the ongoing harms perpetuated by the movement of white capital and externalized to Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color. Dennis highlighted examples of environmental racism to point to a toxic present in places as the Navajo Nation, the Cancer Alley, Los Ángeles y San Francisco, may instead be a healthy future for both White Communities and Communities of Color.  

29. Zero Waste Cities, Jack McQuibban from Zero Waste Europe shared how they provide Europe resources, guidance, and support for their local members in their path to ZW. He summarized the ZW Cities program  for which, ZW Europe has now the world’s first Zero Waste cities certification. Based on the ZW cities framework, Jack touched base in some successes in Catalonia, Spain and among the 325 citiesItalian cities which are now ZW cities. “Community composting is important and now less expensive than incineration. The Zero Waste model works” 

30. Zero Waste Cities in the U.S, Gary Liss, Zero Waste USA. Gary said they’re over 100 cities in the United States working towards Zero Waste. He emphasized that the best Zero Waste planning approach is the stakeholder approach. This means that stakeholders are heavily involved in shaping the Zero Waste plan. Gary reviewed several Zero Waste Plans and key points and aspects of those plans that made them successful and unique. The Boston Zero Waste plan is a great example of how the stakeholder approach was carried out. An advisory committee was created during the Zero Waste planning process in Boston to advise the city staff. He also discussed the Baltimore Zero Waste Plan that included a call to end the contract with the incinerator. Gary discussed the Los Angeles Zero Waste Plan, which included extensive stakeholder meetings. They began in Los Angeles by creating 12 guiding principles that directed what the Zero Waste plan focused on. The guiding principles were created by over 3000 stakeholders during a five year process. The way the United States creates Zero Waste plans is with a stakeholder driven process. 

31. Green Building Council Costa Rica (GBCCR), Nicolás Ramírez, Director of GBCCR, went over the 11 parts of the GBCCR , including the TRUE advisor training. He overviewed the varied existing certifications as LEED and EDGE, which focus on different targets, as well as the TRUE certification can help different sectors achieve ZW, including the construction sector. Stakeholder engagement is important. 

32. Sustainable Finance, Michelle Espinach, Sustainable Banking Manager, Banco Promerica. Shared how “The challenge is to cover everyone’s needs and not exceed the planet’s limits” as Kare Raworth portraits in her doughnut economics,  This is why Banco Pro-America  “foments circular economy development to help us move towards a service economy, as proposed by Thomas Rau” as well as investing in regenerative agriculture. “Possibilities for carbon absorption and regeneration as portrayed in Kiss the Ground the movie, are amazing”. We are now understanding “climate risk as investment risk”. Our bank has joined the Net Zero Banking Alliance, where 38% of the global assets have pledged towards carbon neutrality, 41 countries and 115 banks are in. Three of our national banks are already in the process of decarbonizing their portafolio. We help our clients, by hand, to reduce their emissions because “a client’s carbon footprint is becoming as important as their patrimonial adequacy”. Finally, Michelle touched base on the importance of regulating ASG risks given the unpredictability due to climate change. As funders align their investments with our global priority for survival, green funds prove more and more how they surpass regular funds profitability” 

33. TRUE Zero Waste Certification (Green Business Certification Inc.) Stephanie Barger, Director of Market Transformation & Development,  Summary: Stephanie shared that TRUE was founded in 2017 and focuses on resources, not waste. TRUE works with businesses. TRUE is Zero Waste, circularity, and closed loop. TRUE has a point system for businesses with the goal of achieving 90% diversion or more. Over 250 companies in over 30 countries are certified. “Go beyond recycling and look at the upstream Rs.”  Stephanie went through some case studies on Toyota, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Tesla, and more. Looking ahead,  “if we develop a robust zero waste infrastructure we can be prepared not only for natural (extreme weather events) disasters but economic disasters”, The ability to reuse disaster materia by re-permitting for re-built and reconstruct and the elimination of toxins not just from property sites that become hazardous waste sites, but to streamlining the content of hazardous waste at home.   

 December 8: Global Challenges – Best Practices around the world, Part III

34. Food waste and wasted food – socio economic and environmental impacts, legislation, and successful examples. 

Moderador:  Daniela Ochoa,  Regenerative Solutions


The Costa Rican Network for the reduction of food loss and waste (Red Costarricense para la Disminución de Pérdidas y Desperdicio de Alimentos), is one of the most important ZW partnerships in CR, Monthly, it brings 30 key members who are  NGOs, academia and a wide array of food stakeholders,  to brainstorm on how to maximize the nationals rescue foods and distribution efforts in this region. By collaborating with the FAO, Zero Waste Costa Rica and other stakeholders, this network is addressing half of the United Nations SDGs directly and benefiting the rest of them indirectly. This is why the United Nations is funding their Cocinando Soluciones project as a pilot. The “red” recovers healthy food surplus  from being thrown away and donates it to those who are food insecure. 

“We should be using the third of the food grown in the globe to feed the 800+m million humans who don’t have access to food”  Beyond reducing food waste we must think about nutrition quality. This is why Cocinando Soluciones empowers cooks at pantries, with training by chiefs to minimize waste at their kitchens. They also help them to include higher content of fresh vegetables into the pantry recipes.     

Their collaboration was also instrumental in the development of the national Organics Composting Plan, This network helped Costa Rica recognize that reducing food waste from the source, and feeding humans in need are the highest and best uses for these resources. Mindful that there is more wasted food than what would be needed to eradicate hunger globally,  this network is now receiving “ugly food.” In good condition, they also compost all organic discards to nourish the soils of local food systems.  

It’s all connected. “Our global food security is in jeopardy when we reduce our Agro-Bio Diversity as we have been doing in the last decades”. “Food systems are complex”. Disparity matters. “W25% of Costa Ricans live in the poverty line and 7%  in extreme poverty. This means 399,000 Ticos daily experiencing food insecurity and homelessness. The average wage of someone in the poverty line in metropolitan San José (according to their census) is $5,000 colones /month ($102 dlls)”. Meanwhile, the monetary value of the food wasted per household in the US is equivalent to $84034 colones/month ($155 dlls). This is why food banks are so important. 300 NGOs distribute food daily in Costa Rica to 42,000 people. “Those who have less money don’t include fruits and vegetables”.  We must raise awareness and empower those who need it to afford eating nutritious food, to minimize food waste,to be able to compost, and maybe even grow some herbs or other produce, full circle!   

35. .Organics in the West Coast and beyond. Andy McNeil, Director of Denali,  one of the largest composters in the US, main mission is to repurpose waste streams as resources: Biosolids, curbside green waste collections; wastewater residuals, sludge and bioproducts from food processors; food waste from main grocery stores brands; restaurant’s grease waste and wood waste. Denali converts all these streams into Compost, Fertilizer, Animal-Feed, Fuel and other products. “The trajectory is to move diversion to the consumer level. Banning organics from landfills is a legislation trend and an important step. At least 24% of the overall discards in municipal landfills are recoverable organics”  Company edicts and ESG reports are also another important step, tax credits based on carbon intensity is the next frontier. Denali addresses the landfill scarcity and with their scale capacity are a major stakeholder, capable of changing the game in the United States. They’ve sold 110 million pounds of biofuel, 1.4 million tons of compost, soil, and mulch, and 5 million tons of fertilizer. Still striving for deeper culture and mindset for recycling nationwide and abroad. 

36.  Study Case: “Canelones Sustentables”, Gabriel Berterretche President of Alianza Basura Cero Uruguay. By distributing more than 100,000 compost bins to Canelones with 500,000 inhabitants throughout Uruguay, this region took an “opt-out” instead of an “opt-in” approach, as a technique to maximize participation. Urban families were given 3 containers: one for recycling, one for mixed discards, and one home compost bin. Their first pilot included 300 participants, and yielded 45% home composting success rate for full adoption. “Globally, we need a mindshift with active awareness that considers organic remains as inputs for generating new food”. We think every person should experience first hand the circularity embedded in what they choose to eat. By compost and home, and then planting, something anything, to get the picture: “Plant, re-eat, compost and plant”. We took to heart, Richard Anthony insight “in hindsight, we would have chosen to start with organics, as the mean stream material to focus in the pursuit of zero waste”. Thus, Basura Cero Latam, and Basura Cero Uruguay, goals are now geared toward recovering and repurposing all organic waste out of  landfills and incinerators. 

37.  Movie premier: “Keepers of the North” by Donald Thomson, Founder & CEO of CRDC In an effort to offset the carbon footprint of this film production, CRDC USA purchase carbon upsets from ACT Commodities, removing 5 tons of carbon resulting from shipping the plastic collected from the beaches in Alaska to the CRDC USA  processing facility in York, Pennsylvania. CRDC USA would especially thank FedEx for their support in shipping this plastic. 

38. Karla Desireé Díaz, Head of Circular Economy Colombia & Central America for ENEL.  

Enel is an energy utility company serving 73 million customers in 30 countries.  Enel’s commitment to zero waste is reflected in their circular economy principles, and applied in all their business areas. One example is their  Futur-e circular economy project for the repurposing of decommissioned power plants. Enel has also included a sustainable construction site model in all of the new Enel plants currently under construction. Enel´s CirculAbility model evaluates the effectiveness of their circularity process internally and their Circular Procurement project, for example, is gradually being applied with our suppliers. 

39.  “Fix It Clinics”  Laura Anthony,  President of Zero Waste San Diego. Repair shops were so important for Zero Waste,and are now basically vanished from the USA. Since 2016, to prevent overconsumption and planned obsolescence in San Diego, Laura offers Fixit clinics, to recover, fix and reuse all sorts of items. The kind of stuff that makes up for the other 50% of items discarded that are not organics. Inspired by Peter Mui in 2010. His blog has all instructions needed to host one of these clinics in person in libraries, pop up events or travel events anywhere! Hers are volunteer run, and twice a month due to their community partners. With 100 clinics they have diverted 3000 pounds and served 700 people in these free events. Laura finds volunteers to fix things and helps administration and logistics. Laura recommends accounting for weather forecasts and being patient when hosting popup sites, to make sure you create, promote, document and report your events. Here is a Laura video Laura of what her fixit clinics look like. Future projects include repair classes, how to videos, mobile popup trailers, mentoring programs and intergenerational training. 

40. “Expanding the Local Reuse Economy” Amanda Rice Waddle, Repurpose Project, Gainesville, Florida. The reuse economy has expanded in Gainesville, FL, due to the hard work of staff and the support from the community. The Repurpose Project (RP) is a nonprofit reuse store in Gainesville, FL, that opened in 2012. In the past ten years, the nonprofit has moved to a more prominent location and expanded its programs to include a Department of Zero Waste. In 2021, RP decided to grow due to the store’s lack of space for bulky items. They found a building to buy but still needed to raise $200,000. The community stepped up and donated almost that amount. RP purchased the building and opened a second store to handle bulky items such as cabinets, furniture, desks, appliances, and décor. This second store has allowed us to collect and resell bulky items that would have ended up in the landfill. In 2023 RP staff will conduct two studies to assess the quality and quantity of items left on the curb (single-family residents) and at the transfer station (self-haul community). RP has plans to work on better storage and organization of building supplies and possibly open a third location focusing on small household items and clothing. 

41. “Zero Waste Pop Ups & the 4th Bin” Teresa Bradley, Director Race to Zero Waste, a woman-founded environmental non-profit that is dedicated to reducing consumption, implementing reuse, and promoting an equitable circular economy. Race to Zero Waste’s signature program is the Zero Waste Pop-ups. R20W’s Zero Waste Pop-ups engage the public in reflection and educate passers-by on waste diversion. The presence of the Zero Waste Station Pop-ups in outdoor, publicly accessible spaces allows R20W to promote understanding of waste diversion. Passersby may have a picnic, participate in a litter clean-up, or other activity and deposit items they wish to discard at the Zero Waste Pop-up. In some places, the Pop-up also provides temporary waste infrastructure in an underserved area. The data collected from each Zero Waste Pop-up enables us to report on the waste stream. We report on diversion rates from these spaces through visual waste characterization and weight. Zero Waste Pop-ups are recognizable points of contact for park-goers and beach-goers, with the capacity to be flexible regarding location. ZW Pop-ups have a standardized portable set-up which we can easily relocate to where they are most needed to continue promoting a zero waste ethic.

42. Electronics Recycling and EPR.

Moderator: Neil Seldman, Director of Cornucopia Recycling Project


  • Luis Roberto Chacon, Dir. of Latin America E-Waste Project  (PREAL),
  • Jamie Kaminski, Director, Zero Waste Canada 

This panel emphasized the importance of repair and reuse in the world of discarded electronics and all the social benefits that accompany these activities. Luis Roberto shared insights on how e-waste is currently handled in LATAM. In LATAM, they are doing great things around reuse and repair and understand the importance of doing more to avoid large amounts of electronics from being burned in cement kilns with minimal recovery, which  is consistent with many regions around the world. This led to a very important question,” How can we make Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs work for the community with a strong focus on repair and reuse rather than simply just collecting, recycling what we can, and burning what is left. Currently, EPR programs are run by a board of directors who are direct employees of the major brand owners for that segment. As a result the mandate for the board of directors of any stewardship program looking to reduce waste by extending the life of a product through repair and reuse is in direct conflict with the brand owners (Their employer) who have a responsibility to maximize profits by selling new products.   

As Neil pointed out,  with an emphasis on reuse, and refurbishment, discarded electronics have the means to bridge the digital divide, provide the opportunity for good jobs for un- and under-employed citizens and opportunities for small business development. Reused products increase the value of exports as well as serve the secondary market in Costa Rica. In addition, reuse and repair markets demand a more skilled labor force which provides better paid jobs. Model programs and enterprises in the US & Canada are: RecycleForce in Indianapolis, IN, HomeBoy Industries in Los Angeles, CA, Computers for Good in Kansas City, MO and St Vincent De Paul in Eugene, OR. Computers for Schools in BC Canada.  

“Costa Rica has the following infrastructure needs to realize these economic and social benefits: Enforce the ban on landfill disposal, expand the network of drop off sites, create a tripartite partnership among community organizations, government agencies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for recovery, job training for repair and distribution for domestic and export markets”

43. Urban Ore, presented by Dan Knapp and Mary Lou Van Deventer 

After 6 years as a scholar, Dan embarked in participant observation research aiming to change people’s behaviors in 1980. Nowadays with a for profit model and 3 acres, Urban Ore provides employment to 42 people, diverting an average of 8,500 tons of waste a year. In their initial years, they paid back 10% of their revenue to the City of Berkeley and after 3 years, they had saved enough to cover the transition. An average of 100 people come to their doors daily to sell or buy. Mary shared details about their methodology and standard operations procedures, including their Outside Trader Department, as well as their annual finances, including the priceless benefits they foster. Read their EPA’s Zero Waste Case Study and their EPA’s webinar about contracts, or even their contract agreements with the city of Berkeley, also published by the EPA, for more detailed information. 

44. “California, USA Food Waste & Legislation, Large Venues & Hotels’ ‘ Ana Carvalho – Board Member ZWIA – In line with the EPA’s source reduction pyramid, Ana foresees the need of a shift in perception as the key needle mover. Education, awareness, infrastructure, and investments to finance it all. The government may implement legislation that generates specific goals, timeframes and help finance the needed infraestructure, with incentives “carrots’ ‘ and “sticks’ ‘ fines. Some legislations such as AB32 “shaking the ground’…. 4 cubic years or more for any waste volume generated, need to properly divert this organic waste.  

45. Best Practices in Hospitality and the Tourism Industry 

Moderador:  Elena Mateo, Director Zero Waste Costa Rica


  • Sr. Gustavo Alvarado, Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT)
  • Sr. Jorge Arrieta, VicePresidente de Operaciones CAYUGA
  • Sr. Federico Barquero, CEO de grupo ANC
  • Sr. Fernando Madrigal, Director CANAECO 

Mr. Gustavo Alvado talked about the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST);  a social, economic and environmental certification program that differentiates Costa Rica as a sustainable tourism destination where all sectors benefit, including all communities and their surrounding populations. Costa Rica strives to attract tourists that are looking for a sustainable tourism destination and is working on a five year tourism plan. Sr. Federico Barquero, CEO de grupo ANC, has been the only car rental company with both ISO 14000 and ISO 9000 for the past 22 years. Sustainability is at the heart of their operation and they have been concerned about their water consumption.  They use a recycled rainwater process and a dry process to wash their 44 thousand vehicles and this has turned into a 63% of water reduction per year. In the long term, ANC is a “sustainable” neighbor for all the communities where they operate. Electric vehicles have been purchased and so has the use of solar panels to charge them.  

Mr. Jorge Arrieta, mentioned that the CAYUGA Sustainable Hospitality Group began operations 20 years ago, they were the first to have a 5 “leaf” CST certification.  They have developed sustainable projects, hire local staff, and promote sustainable communities. Cayuga won the 2018 Tourism for Tomorrow Award in the “People” Category by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) every year. They implement sustainable practices in their operations in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua such as “farm to table”, sustainable purchasing, “no plastics” are sold at hotels, “backhouse sustainability tours” open to every customer, and more.  

Mr. Fernando Madrigal  talked about how proud CR should be to the  CST sustainability certification since it is accessible to every hotel industry in CR and is totally free. He also shared a video of SENSORIA, a great example of sustainable operation that promotes conservation and research programs, community and rural involvement, and the use of renewable energy for all operations. He also mentioned zero waste workshops carried out by ZWCR in the communities surrounding Sensoria. All three industries showcase some of the best sustainable practices in Costa Rica’s tourism sector and are challenged to continue being a worldwide example of sustainable tourism. 

46. “Let’s Do It Movement” Pal Martensson from World Clean Up Day, contributed for the third time to share a few highlights of his vast experience on Cleanups around the world. Pal reminded us that cleaning-up’s importance lies in the awareness they raise about the damage being done to our environment by any pollution  “it helps people take responsibility. It inspires the community and its members to continue to make changes in their everyday lives, it is the cure for the Trash blindness.. It Unites a community”.

47. Results of Sunday’s December 4 Brand Audits and Volunteer Day, Beach Cleanups. 


A brand audit is like an X-ray, a citizen science tool that depicts which brands are abundantly present in the pollution stream of an specific place. Theresa Bradley, Jaime Kaminski, Dorte and Andres Terán joined 35 local volunteers in Guacalillo’s beach, the most polluted beach in Costa Rica to perform this brand audit. Led by Victor Arce and Daniela Ochoa, we collected hundreds of pounds of shore waste. Out of a 114.7 kg sample, we identified and quantified items in 6 categories and then also classified them by brand. Once entered in the data sheet, all items were weighed. PET constituted 52.7% of the collection: bottles of coke, bicola, guaro, pepsi, and bic lighters were the top five brands identified, in that order. The other more prominent item were shoes, although most of them had unidentifiable brands. All material suitable for recycling was sent to the collection center in Garabitos, including the “tragic plastic” that made its way to the Resin8 plant. 

Prior to the event, a training for costarican groups who had cleanups scheduled for December, was provided to share the #breakfreefromplastic format and methodology. The Clean Wave in Tamarindo, and María Fernanda Bonilla Jiménez in Desamparados, performed their own audit during this national volunteering day. As plastic production is expected to double in the next decade, this training is still available for free, upon request. The overall goal is to support Zero Waste Costa Rica and all Tico’s who advocate for shared responsibility and Extended Producer Responsibility Practices nationwide. Check Zero Waste Costa Rica’s website for detailed results of these brand audits and to request access to the training. 

Gabriela Román, Manager of CEGESTI  manages projects funded by the German Environmental department called Promar to prevent plastic reaching the shore. They focus on the history and behaviors of the nearby communities that caused such pollution to occur. Their aim is to propel solutions to eliminate these waste streams. CEGESTI’s waste audits serve to keep in check the Municipal Plans for Comprehensive Waste Management (PMGIR) success. CEGESTI works in partnership with Costa Rica’s health and environmental departments to sustain progress and increase impact. Their samples are performed in tiny “transcectors”, nonetheless, given their periodicity and aggregated date, they are meaningful and instrumental to educate and impact counties environmental campaigns and programs.   

48. How should waste be handled in Costa Rica leading to the year 2030 and 2050?

Moderator: Karla Chaves, directora de ecoins


Costa Rica is advancing in Circular Economy synergies. This event is a roadmap to place our country in the international circularity map.Costa Rica strives to become a benchmark for circular economy issues worldwide. As a nation we face financing, innovation and bureaucratic challenges to get there. Tax incentives are important, metrics and the implementation of extended producer responsibility not only in hazardous waste. Designing systems that guarantee the same level of freshness is the goal. Evolving to services and leasing models are trends opening new opportunities in the circular economy. The benefits of the circular economy are still unknown to most businesses nationwide.

Training, mindshifts and moving cultural barriers, is still needed. Productive chain, where those with productive sophistication are given rewards, is a good practice. We must identify good practices and promote them. Inadequate solid waste management is an environmental problem, a social problem, and it is a public health problem. Teamwork institutional partnerships, bridges and cooperation between large and small. Joining EPR clusters and also by fostering responsibility among consumers, are actions that can lead to the success of the circular economy strategy. “If I am responsible, I help my responsible circle”

Closing: Ruth Abbe, President Zero Waste USA 

Thank you’s: Elena Mateo, Director Zero Waste Costa Rica