The RAAS Waste and Recycling Program

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011 - $28,272

Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Located on the Atlantic Coast of the country, the Southern Autonomous Region (RAAS) of Nicaragua is plagued with the most severe poverty in the country and has very little infrastructure, including systems for the removal and treatment of solid waste. Garbage is commonly dumped in informal dumpsites, creeks, and rivers, or burned in yards behind homes, producing greenhouse gases and emitting environmental toxins that are a threat to public health. Previous attempts to initiate recycling programs in this region have been hampered by the high cost of transporting trash from remote RAAS municipalities to recycling brokers in Managua, located on the other side of the country.

This team is partnering with wastepickers, scrap metal collectors, and a local composting cooperative to develop economically feasible waste sector enterprises that simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create income for some of the region's most marginalized families. The team has a two-phased, three-year plan. Phase I focuses on the largest town in the region, Bluefield, where the team will work with locals to develop a logistics plan and build a recycling enterprise, a composting cooperative, and a small scale biodigester that uses organic waste to create biogas. Phase II extends the project to two other towns in the region, El Rama and the Corn Islands. Technical innovation includes the incorporation of slaughterhouse waste with the biodigester (not a typical input for biodigesters in Central America) and plans to design tools (crushing, mixing) to accommodate that waste.