A social experiment: a waste story not wasted

2018 was an exciting year for Tulum’s community. The winter high season of 2017 was record-breaking for the tourism industry in Tulum’s history and triggers a major alarm on solid waste management, as the current infrastructure was getting to the limit of carrying capacity. Predicted many years before by citizens and environmental organizations, finally, the private sector starts looking at the problem to promote different levels of action.

Art With Me Festival (May 2018) born from that critical moment with the purpose of inspiring people to live in a more sustainable way, using arts in search of an Eco-Culture, trying to develop a model of blue economy because business, as usual, is no longer an option.

Care With Me is the soul of the festival to give back to Tulum Community and preserving Tulum’s environment. So we make a commitment to leveraging human and financial resources to implement solutions for waste management. We implement green practices during the event and challenge all our partners to do the same at every venue. But we didn’t stop there, as Care With Me is a year-round program we became allies and fund Red Tulum Sostenible to work in a comprehensive Waste Management Plan for Tulum with short, mid and long term scope. Together we gain traction to engage the government to implement solutions.

2019

Early in the year, a small group of about ten citizens decides to take action with machetes in the hand, not to make justice but to start changing reality. For many years one of the access to Villas Tulum neighborhood for pedestrians was an abandoned street, not even paved, full of bushes and weeds, trash everywhere and very dark at night.  Many women were raped through the years and robbery was common too.

They start cutting the weed and preparing the land to plant native trees…followed by putting several old tires to prevent any vehicle to get in, as a rental car company was taking advantage by using it as a parking lot.  After two weekends the tires were painted with nice colors and filled in with soil to host beautiful plants. Along the trail ceibas, papayas and other native trees were the new landscape…so it turns into a Green Trail, Sendero Verde. Later a couple of lamps were installed to bring light to the dark nights.  A community-based project was born, neighbors start having communication and spending time together for common benefit.

Planted tree at Sendero Verde

Signage by Sendero Verde

Spreading consciousness

Inspired by the community action our partner HABITAS came up with the idea of a plastic bottle container in the form of a big basket to collect them and send it to recycling instead of ending up in the landfill. Plastic bottles are one of the main components of trash in the absence of recycling culture do to the massive selling of water and other toxic high-sugar drinks. All start as an experiment by putting in Sendero Verde the basket planted with few bottles in, no signs and without a lock. With the risk that maybe people will throw other materials, maybe dirty diapers too. Slowly people start copying butting bottles in. One week later the surrounding space was more organized and clean. By the third week, the basket was ¾ full. In agreement with SMEC, a recycling company from Cancun, they came to pick this precious plastic as they sell it in the market of the circular economy. We hope that as a society we move into a plastic-free but for Tulum reality, this was a huge milestone that evolves into a Punto Limpio or a green point to collect other recyclable materials like cardboard, aluminum cans, tetrapack, and glass.

Opening of Tulum's first Punto Limpio in Sendero verde

Tulum is facing a huge problem with solid waste, as it became a hotspot destination during the last ten years lack of planning, infrastructure, and enforcement of the law turn it into chaos. Trash is all over the streets and in the jungle in a landfill and in a dump yard. 170 Tons of garbage is produced every day and 2 out of 3 Kg are the tourism footprint coming from the hotel zone.

Tulum garbage problem / image from noticiaspedrocanche.com

On 17th August 2019 we will celebrate at Sendero Verde the accomplishment of a first Puntos Limpio. This is the kick-off of a new phase for Tulum neighborhoods: Puntos Limpios Program with the ambition of establishing 12 Puntos Limpios in 12 neighborhoods to collect recyclable materials. This program includes environmental education workshops, training, cultural activities art, music and more for adults and kids during one month to have up and running the Punto Limpio at Sendero Verde.

Our dream, vision, and funding is creating an alliance to leverage more human and economic resources. We welcome La Fundación de las mujeres de Tulum, Centro Comunitario La Ceiba Tulum, BioHogar

We are excited and grateful for all this beautiful process what starts as a social experiment at Sendero Verde  and now have the following outcomes:

·       Multi-Stakeholder Alliance

·       Community Engagement

·       Motivation for sorting recyclable materials in neighborhoods.

·       Collecting clean and high-quality plastic bottles

·       Preventing recyclable materials to end up in the landfill or dump yard

We believe change happens when collective spaces and events are created to implement practices for the betterment of our environment. Local organizations like Red Tulum Sostenible and Art With Me/Care With Me Platform are helping to facilitate this process towards greater impact; We believe that education and action are key for social regeneration.

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