Giving plastic bags a second life and making heaters from aluminum cans

Chiapas has a serious problem with solid waste, mostly plastic, clogging waterways and filling the air with toxic smoke when it is burned in landfills. Each year tons of bottles and other plastic junk is dredged from the Canyon de Sumidero, a national park that attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year. Beaches are littered with plastic that has been tumbled in the surf.

Basket made from plastic bags, high school students learn to upcycle

But plastic is not just an eyesore and source of pollution. With some creativity, it can be fashioned into useful things like tote bags, purses and much more. These can be sold for a good price, providing a source of income for people who make them.

With the steep topography of the Sierra, there is little space for landfills. In Motozintla the landfill sits on the edge of the river that is the source of irrigation and drinking water for communities downstream. Not a pretty picture.

“Upcycling”, turning trash into useful and saleable goods, is an excellent means of keeping trash out of the landfill. It can put money in people's pockets and does not depend on elected officials to implement as recycling would. We are working on ways to upcycle plastic bags and aluminum cans to create useful items that can be produced by people to sell. A cooperative of women looking for products to sell and a group of high school students have come to the Center to learn about possibilities.

See how we upcycling aluminum cans, cardboard boxes and discarded styrofoam to make heaters for schools

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