Floor to ceiling garbage bags, rows of waste bins and an old warehouse may not depict an art museum at first glance, but it’s a place Carolina Lizano Fernández calls beautiful.
As the corporate social responsibility coordinator for Kimberly-Clark’s Central America & Caribbean region, Lizano acts as a museum curator of sorts. She helps manage AmbientaDOS, a recycling program that has transformed light bulbs, bottle caps, paperboard and other discarded material into jewelry, ornaments and colorful lamps – among other new things.
Together with Teletica, one of Costa Rica’s top TV stations, Kimberly-Clark established AmbientaDOS to help make the concept of “reuse and recycle” viable in Costa Rica. What started at a single location now includes more than 30 collection centers across Costa Rica operated by various business partners and community associations. Twice a month, recyclable waste is collected at centers across the country. Since the program began in 2009, enough waste has been collected to prevent 2,000 garbage trucks from entering landfills.
Recycled materials can become many things in addition to art; Kimberly-Clark uses this material in its products. Through AmbientaDOS, Kimberly-Clark buys back thousands of tons of recycled paper, carton and other types of waste paper to manufacture products that are more environmentally preferred. Many of Kimberly-Clark’s products are a blend of fiber from sustainably managed forests, alternative or non-wood fibers, and fiber from recycled paper. This combination allows Kimberly-Clark to make products that meet people’s essential needs while being responsible stewards of the environment. Because this required a supply chain of recyclable material, Kimberly-Clark laid the foundation for AmbientaDOS.
“When we started, we weren’t sure what would happen in the future – there was little precedent for what we were attempting,” said Lizano. “We just knew it was something we believed in, to continue providing sustainable products and to protect the planet.”
— Carolina Lizano Fernández
In the past, other recycling programs in Costa Rica were constrained by limited awareness and access. Together, Kimberly-Clark and Teletica understand the value of recycling and of communication. “We’ve made use of the airwaves, asking people to bring recyclables to one of many collection centers throughout the country,” said Lizano.” This approach draws on the strengths of both partners and also empowers communities.”
The name, AmbientaDOS, is a combination of the Spanish words ambiente (environment) and dos (two), because two days a month two companies come together for one important cause: the environment. “Teletica is passionate about AmbientaDOS. We are helping to change the way people see trash and open up a world of new possibilities that are good for our environment and have a positive impact on people’s lives,” said Ignacio Santos, Telenoticias Director (TV News), Teletica.
— Ignacio Santos
AmbientaDOS combines the strengths of Kimberly-Clark and Teletica in the areas of recycling and of communications.
An important element of Kimberly-Clark’s contribution is its employees. With hundreds of team members unloading and sorting materials, a competitive spirit between departments has inspired even greater volunteerism. Managers have even begun using collection days as team-building exercises. “You might say that AmbientaDOS has infused our culture,” says Lizano.
Kimberly-Clark also incentivizes recycling for the public by donating seeds to reforestation projects in exchange for recyclable paper. It has already provided in excess of 100,000 seeds to Bosque Urbano, a reforestation project of the San José City Hall, and helped plant 30,000 trees.
No doubt, AmbientaDOS has caught the attention of the country’s top officials. Recently, the government declared it a National Interest by the President of the Republic. Now, as the government of Costa Rica explores a national strategy for recycling, it has invited Kimberly-Clark to participate from the private sector.
Together, Kimberly-Clark and Teletica are showing people a new way to think about what was once considered waste.
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