Foster local economy around recycling

June 21, 2017

Ecuador Placeholder

Foster local economy around recycling

About the Implementing organization

Name: Comuna Ancestral Las Tunas

Country: Ecuador

Year of establishment: 1998

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization


This initiative is innovative because children collect the plastic bottles and obtain 1 cent for each bottle they collected. Garbage collection leads thus to the empowerment of children allowing them to become the engines of change within families. A unique component of our initiative is that it is inclusive providing incentives for different groups of the community. Women use recycled plastic to produce handcraft products, thereby creating a local economy around the waste that the sea transports to the shores of the community. The clean environment increases tourism to the area, providing income to distinct community members. Unlike other recycling initiatives, we do not only reduce waste and improve the local economy. Our initiative is unique owing to its strong emphasis on environmental education and the direct conservation benefits that our solutions provide for at least seven globally threatened species. Environmental education stops the direct exploitation of two endangered sea turtles and leads to the protection of globally threatened Capuchin monkeys and birds.

Nature Element

Forests / Oceans / Coasts

Type of Action

Protection / Pollution prevention, clean up / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Health

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The communal land is now free from the otherwise ubiquitous garbage that is littering Ecuadorian’s coast. The eggs of two species of marine turtles nesting on the beaches were previously collected. Now their nests are surveyed by community members, protected against robbery, and eggs of nests vulnerable to being predated by dogs are hatched in a secure area. A total of 2000 ha of communal land covered by dry to semi-humid habitat is protected. This area is home to at least 5 globally threatened species. Three environmental festivals are held annually educating the public about the importance of conserving nature and ecological resources.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Recycling provides considerable income to the local community, thereby reducing the need to emigrate to the large cities. Clean beaches have increased the number of tourists by at least 15%. This is a sustainable development as tourists stay in small hostels owned by the community and not in large hotels owned by companies as elsewhere on Ecuadorian’s coast. Tourism thus leads to more employment opportunities allowing indirect benefits of a reduction in pollution. The reduction in pollution has direct health benefits as the water of the Rio Ayampe which provides drinking water is no longer contaminated by plastic which disintegrates into micro-plastic that is eventually taken up by humans and wildlife alike. Increased environmental knowledge leads to a greater appreciation and care of the environment, thereby increasing the long-term sustainability of the ecological resources the community depends on.


This initiative could easily be extended to the Pacific coast in Ecuador and in other Latin American countries where sea-borne garbage is ubiquitous. Our initiative can serve as a global model to combat coastal and oceanic pollution. Given the immediate benefits of waste reduction and the low initial hurdles of our initiative, there is a high probability that our initiative is applicable across different cultural contexts. Moreover, there is an immediate and necessary link between waste reduction and improvement of tourism opportunities. These are particularly important in coastal areas across the globe. Finally, at times where indigenous knowledge on the environment is on the retreat, our initiative can reconnect inhabitants with their environment through the emphasis on the link between culture and nature.


The payment for the collected garbage alone provided more than $50,000 of income to the local community. Additional income streams are those obtained from the production of handicrafts from recycled material and from increased tourism. The inclusive nature of various additional income streams of this initiative to different segments of communities allows for the quick adoption of the program. The work is done easily, not requiring prior knowledge. Moreover, the benefits are instantaneous and striking as no garbage is littering the beaches, immediately enhancing the aesthetic value of the landscape. The combination of rapid aesthetic and economic benefits facilitates quick buy-in even in communities without prior interest and knowledge of the environment. Low initial hurdles and immediate benefits allow the quick replication of this initiative along with a wide range of communities.

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