Founder of retreat centre Hacienda del Sol, B.C.-born Menlha Bruneau has always been an innovator. The creative mind behind many projects here in the jungles of Costa Rica, including Hacienda's signature juice cleanse program, the Kootenay School of Rebalancing massage therapy course, and countless other mind-body, community, and environmental incentives, her latest project really bridges the gap between garbage and green living.
The semi-retired craniosacral therapist and juice detox facilitator has lived here in Costa Rica for 20 years, and says that one of the biggest challenges she has faced with while residing here, is garbage disposal. Upon first settling in the area, there were absolutely no dumps available locally, and certainly no services designed around weekly pick-up. Always being careful to produce as little trash as possible, early on Bruneau buried what she had to, and even went so far as to pack her car full of waste, transporting it herself to nearby villages that had usable dumpsites. Paper waste was (and still is) often burned or added into the compost.
Eventually, the local village nearby had a breakthrough.
"It was a wonderful surprise when San Juanillo started a recycling program with the help of foreigners who were on exchange programs. We could then recycle glass, plastic water bottles and aluminum cans."
Someone also donated a piece of land in the area to develop a proper dump in town, but after a fire swept through, that was the end of that. So Menlha decided she had to get creative. Plastic bottles remain one of the biggest problems, as the processing plants for recycling do not typically handle them well here. How could she reuse these long and narrow pieces of semi-firm material? Well, 700 plastic water and soda bottles have officially been up-cycled and transformed into "tiles" in Hacienda's first green house floor project.
But there was still the issue of garbage -- all the broken glass, metals, and non-reusable plastics -- to deal with. While contemplating another problem - the lack of a proper fence on the grounds -- Bruneau had a stroke of genius -- why not build a wall out of garbage?
"The crates that our avocados and mangos are delivered in are made of non-recyclable plastic. So I began collecting as many as possible of those and started filling each one with trash and building the wall as if it was from bricks. Our grocery delivery man has been collecting them for me as well!"
And so the waste wall was born.
In order to maintain a solid base underneath the crates, a ditch was dug and filled with cement and crushed glass to form the foundation. Large plastic bottles for laundry detergent, paint thinner, olive oil, and other bulk purchased liquids, that are not recyclable in this country and that take up a lot of space, have also been utilized. These days, the HDS kitchen staff are asked to stuff those containers with plastic bags, plastic wrap, straws, and other small, squish-able waste products, in order to further deal with scraps that would otherwise have no home, and form 'bricks." So far, the wall has been built to almost nine feel tall!
Rebar has been used to support the whole structure and any metal scraps that are lying around from the current renovations and upgrades taking place on the grounds help reinforce it. Long term, the plan is to wrap the completed garbage wall in chicken wire and then the entire thing will be enrobed in coloured cement to make it shine. Talk about taking it to the curb.
With acres of land to cover should the garbage wall one day encircle all of the resort grounds, it looks like the problem of not knowing where to toss trash may be a non-issue for Hacienda in the days and years to come thanks to Menlha's ingenuity. Here's to "gettin' 'er done!"