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Beach cleanup by Edward Ortega at Santa Teresa, Costa RicaWalk down the beaches of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica and you’re likely to see multicolored crushed seashells, sea glass, and interesting rocks and pebbles along the white sand. What you won’t see as readily is trash.

The Pacific beaches of Santa Teresa – Mal Pais, Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa – on Costa Rica’s southern Nicoya Peninsula hold Ecological Blue Flag status. Costa Rica’s Blue Flag award is an honor for a community to earn. It means the beach community has near-perfect ocean water quality, potable water quality, coastal sanitation areas, treated waste and run-off water, garbage containers and very little litter.

Businesses on these four beaches have taken it upon themselves to keep the beaches clean. Since 2011, they have worked together to pay for two workers to clean each beach every week, all year long. They pick up trash brought in on the Pacific tides, or washed out from nearby rivers or that is left behind by beach-goers. The rubbish is collected in extra-large garden-size trash bags, separated between garbage and recycling, and brought to a municipal trash collection spot.

The business owners take turns in rotation to pay for the two workers and the cleanup costs. “We started in 2011 with only five or six sponsors, and now we are up to 50-60 sponsors,” said program coordinator Roberto de la Ossa. “The more business owners there are, the easier it is for everyone to maintain the program.” De la Ossa, who is general manager at sponsor Hotel Tropico Latino, said he works with a small team of business owners and managers to run the program. In turn, they work with the Environmental Committee of Santa Teresa, which coordinates the Blue Flag program.

“We’re trying to promote consciousness in the area,” de la Ossa explained. “We are blessed that we have very clean water here – 75% of the criteria of the Blue Flag Program is that we have clean water. We’re still in time to conserve the environment here. If we tackle these issues now and put programs in place, the new generations coming up will be better equipped to handle these issues and we can grow sustainably.”

Beach cleanup, Playa Carmen, Costa RicaIn 2011, beach cleanup efforts collected approximately 5,200 kilos of trash, and that was starting mid-year, de la Ossa said. In 2012, they cleaned up a whopping 10,515 kilos of garbage during the year. De la Ossa keeps track of the number of trash bags collected each week on the four beaches, in order to bill the business sponsors each week and also to show tangible results. The group has put out garbage and recycling bins with signs on the beaches, and work to educate the community and visiting tourists to join in the efforts.

De la Ossa said in 2014 they hope to get even more business sponsors on board. “My goal is to gather more sponsors to make our list bigger and the shared cost less per sponsor,” he said. The Santa Teresa Beach Cleanup Program would like to thank and honor its sponsors:

Playa Mal Pais: Pizzeria Mary’s, Star Mountain, Hotel Oasis, Hotel Beija Flor, Hotel Blue Jay, Hotel Vista de Olas, Hotel The Place, Casa chameleon, Hotel La hacienda, Yan March, Moana Lodge, and Canopy Mal Pais.

Playa Carmen: Restaurante Pasta Basta, Restaurante Brisas del Mar, Pura Vida Adventures, Ferreteria Fercosta, Anamaya, Ferreteria RG 2000, Hotel Tropico Latino, Hotel Atrapasueños, The Bakery, Hotel Playa Carmen, Hotel Horizon, Casa Zen / Casa del Mar, Hotel Ranchos Itauna, Hotel Casa Marbella, Casas de Soleil, and Mafras/Zula.

Playa Santa Teresa: Hotel Don Jon’s, Hotel Griss, Hotel Blue Surf Sanctuary, Casa Santa Teresa, Hotel Milarepa, Fuego Lodge, Zwart Café, Otro Lado Lodge, KINA Surf Shop, Hotel Manala, and Hotel Nautilus.

Playa Hermosa: The White House, Villas Hermosas, Zopilote, Pranamar Oceanfront Villas, Hotel Flor Blanca, Latitude 10, and Batik.

Article by Shannon Farley

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