Author’s Note: This is the tenth item in a series of articles that touch on the subject of sustainable practices in Costa Rica. There is a high degree of science, innovation and street smarts involved in sustainability; if you happen to know of a good sustainability tip, please feel free to share it with The Costa Rica Star.
Recycling materials is more important now than ever, particularly since it seems that we have reached a point of no return when it comes to reaping our natural resources; we know they are finite and insufficient to satisfy global demand, yet we keep on exploiting them. There’s also the matter of disposal. We are pretty good at utilizing raw materials and transforming them into something else, but we are not as efficient at waste management.
We currently recycle or repurpose only about half of the scrap tires we produce. Japan and the United States are leaders in tire recycling, and they should be: 290 million tires were generated in the U.S. in 2003, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and in Japan about 1.2 million tons of tire waste accumulates per year, according to Nippon Steel.
Costa Rica only consumes a fraction of the tires that Japan and the U.S. go through, but we lack the infrastructure that those countries utilize to shred and break down their scrap tires into reusable materials. For this reason the Ecologic Foundation for the Recycling of Scrap Tires in Costa Rica (FUNDELLANTAS in Spanish) created llantions.
Llantions are bunches of 100 scrap tires used in construction projects, farms, and even artificial reefs. Discarded tires are treated, compacted and made into cubic objects measuring 75 cm tall, 135 cm wide, and 150 long (inches: 30x54x60). Laying down, they take up an area of about two square meters. Llantions are not pretty, but they are somewhat easy to make and very useful.
In cattle farms, llantions are used as fences, pens, watering holes, large drainage canals, roads, etc. In agricultural farms, they are used to control erosion or to improvise dykes. In civil engineering, they are strong retention walls that prevent landslides -a very useful tool to ameliorate the uncontrolled land development seen in many parts of Costa Rica.
In an interview with the University of Costa Rica (UCR) Radio U 101.9 FM station, Don Sergio Musmanni from the National Center of Green Production explained that the use of llantions as artificial reefs in Nicoya has been a success. The main llantion production center in Costa Rica is located in El Coyol de Alajuela, not far from the RITEVE office, and they are busy. Still, only about 4 out of every 10 tons of scrap tires are turned into llantions.
Considering that Costa Rica produces about 36,000 tons of scrap tires each year, there are many more llantions to be made.