Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Updated: May 5
The Clean Wave's Andres Bermudez battles plastic on the beaches of Costa Rica
3,705 miles away Andres Bermudez calls from within his bedroom in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. He sits at a desk facing a wall with his room as the setting. Eventually he moves so that the area behind is “less busy.” Bermudez works for an organization called The Clean Wave. They help create and promote beach cleanups along the shores of Costa Rica. According to the Tico Times, on average Costa Rica dumps around 550 tons of plastic daily. 80% of that is dumped into the ocean, which then ends up being scattered along the beaches. Within The Clean Wave community, Bermudez is one of three CEOs. During his day, he is either out on the beach picking up trash or sitting behind a computer answering emails and making partnerships. With his strong Costarican accent, Bermudez explains how he and two of his closest friends founded the organization. He had just moved back to Costa Rica from the United States, where he holds dual citizenship, and was walking along a beach in his home country. “Seeing all of the pollution buried under the sand struck a place in my heart and one day made me just want to make a change,” says Bermudez with his black “I am a clean rider” t-shirt sitting on his broad figure.
When asked about where most of this waste comes from, Bermudez replied, “A lot of the trash is an immediate consequence of the poor waste management that Costa Rica has.” Most of the waste in Costa Rica is dumped into four major landfills within the country. Landfills can produce methane, which contributes to global warming. Bermudez and his team's biggest goal is to teach the future generations about how they can help provide for the future world. They teach all ages ranging from children to college students about the importance of keeping their cities and beaches clean. The Clean Wave community explains to them how they can help clean up and what they can be actively doing to prevent immense amounts of pollution. The tan dark man with distracting tattoos running down his arms explains, “Generational trauma based on generational patterns on how to manage waste has had a huge effect on the environment. There's practices that have been going on like burning trash and the kids don’t see it as a bad thing because it’s been going on for so long, so the real way to change this generational pattern is to break through the kids.” He believes that one of the most beneficial ways to help Costa Rica is to educate the future generation about how to nurture and care for their environment.
One of the biggest harms in the territory of Costa Rica is the pollution of cigarettes. With his sorrowful voice, Bermudez describes how much trash he and his team collect on the daily. He notes, “We pick up on average 20 kg per event, and we always pick up at least 1000-1500 cigarette butts in just one hour.” According to the CDC, in Costa Rica 9.1% of the population are avid smokers. When taken into account the population of Costa Rica, that is 325.8 thousand adults. On average, the Tico Times says, the everyday smoker smokes 13 cigarettes a day. That is 4,235,400 cigarettes every 24 hours being
discarded into the ocean, beaches, and roads. To this Bremudez says, “Ignorance is bliss till a certain extent.” If people keep discarding their waste out the window like nothing, then the beaches will soon be covered and by then it will be extremely hard to control.
While Bermudez and his team help clear and protect their beaches, they also must dispose of the waste properly. “The whole point in cleaning the beaches is to dispose of the waste properly,” says Bermudez whilst taking a sip of water. He explains how they send the cans to local recycling, glass to local authorities, and plastics to construction companies. One fascinating thing that The Clean Wave community performs is turning some of the waste into reusable items. They use plastics to then be made into buckets, shovels, and even gloves. “Trash is not a word. Everything is a resource,” says Bermudez. He goes into detail about how he believes in upcycling. That everything can be turning into anything.
Along The Clean Wave website in big bold letters they claim to be a zero waste community. Bermudez describes this as what they believe to be an extraordinary world. A world where everyone is recycling and upcycling. A community where everyone is striving to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Bermudez explains, “Recycling is a process, I don’t think it is a solution.” Meaning that there is no real solution to taking away the pollution and all of the damage amongst the earth. No one can fully repair what we humans have done to this beautiful creation, but by taking the small steps to change we can make the biggest difference for the future.
Bermudez, Andres. Personal Interview. March 28, 2023
“About - Fundación The Clean Wave.” The Clean Wave, https://www.thecleanwave.org/about/. Accessed 1 May 2023.
Arias, L. “Male smokers triple female ones in Costa Rica, study finds.” Tico Times, 17 February 2016, https://ticotimes.net/2016/02/17/costa-rican-male-smokers-triple- female-ones-study-finds. Accessed 1 May 2023.
Sancocho. “Trash still litters remote beaches in Costa Rica, Nicaragua :.” Tico Times, 4 March 2011, https://ticotimes.net/2011/03/04/trash-still-litters-remote-beaches-in- costa-rica-nicaragua. Accessed 1 May 2023.