The Real Dirt on Costa Rica

international student voice magazine page in costa rica
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When most people think of Costa Rica, they imagine pristine beaches with clear, blue-green water or dense, green rainforests with sloths and those poisonous little red frogs. So what is the real Costa Rica like? Dirty.

Trash can be found anywhere: lying on the side of the road, crumpled on park benches, strewn across empty lots and even stuffed into the holes of walls and fences.

While I would expect, and even accept, any other city to have this amount of trash, I find it purely ironic for Heredia. Costa Rica is known for its sustainability efforts and dedication to nature conservation, and proudly touts these accomplishments, but cannot clean the litter off its streets? How can nature thrive among broken beer bottles and used McDonald’s cups?

One could argue that this trash is located within the city, and therefore, has little affect on the faraway beaches and rainforests. However, Costa Rica is the size of Virginia, so what happens in one place has the potential to affect other parts of the country. And typically, this theory holds true with the strong wind and various modes of transportation. So while one person may carelessly leave their finished candy wrapped on the ground next to a sewer, I may find it floating in the ocean a short time later.


Another ironic twist to this trashy situation is the abundance of trash bins within the city. There is at least one bin on every street corner, and even more along the main road and within Central Park. In addition, there are three separate bins for trash, organic waste and paper products located throughout my university campus. And yet, I still see a significant amount of empty bottles and ripped papers on the ground.

And although the amount of floating trash in Heredia is disturbing, the city also makes an effort to address this problem. Every month, Costa Ricans bring their recycling to Central Park to separate and send it off to be recycled. In addition, there seems to be a conscious effort among the population to reduce and reuse anything possible.

trash3While their sustainable habits are admirable, Costa Ricans need to make an effort to clean their streets of litter. Not only is broken glass and dirty food wrappers a threat to the environment, but they are also an issue of sanitation. So please clean up your streets, Costa Rica, so I can walk to school without hopping around to avoid every article of trash or slashing my foot open.

international student voice paige jones

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