Thursday, February 1, 2018


Helping Our Mexican Community Become Greener
A Truck in Mexico Hauling Plastic Bottles to Recycle
     Mexico is recycling, at least in some cities. When I saw this in Nayarit, a truck and trailer-load of plastic bottles being hauled to a recycle depot, I was impressed with this recycling effort. It would be even better if the amount of plastic used and discarded was reduced. But I was impressed that this large volume of plastic was removed from the trash and did not end up in the city dump or the rivers and ocean.
Plastic Bottles Protruding from Trash Bags on Street Corners
     In our small town of Sayulita, many of the locals have not been taught the importance of separating the plastic, glass, and cardboard from the trash and recycling it. Or, they just don't have a way to get to a recycle center, and there is no recycle pickup program here, so much of the plastic and glass goes in the trash. The people do a pretty good job of recycling metal, including aluminum cans, because they can sell metal, so this is worth money to help feed their families. But as you may have read in my article REDUCING OUR TRASH--PLAN #1 FOR THE NEW YEAR, Sayulita is attempting to reduce the amount of trash from 50 tons per day to 14 tons per day. A huge change in recycling is needed! The amount of plastic that I see included in the trash and thrown on the streets every day sickens me. I wondered why Sayulita, a Pueblo Mágico, did not have a better recycling program. It was time to get involved.

     I was excited to learn that Centro de Reciclaje de Sayulita (Sayulita Recycling Center) was opening at their new location February 10, after being closed for almost two months. The new Recycle Center will be located about a mile outside of the city's centro, which brought up a new problem--transportation of recycle items that far when many of us in this town do not own cars. My immediate concern was, how can we set up a system to get the locals to recycle and get the recycling to the new Recycling Center?  
We Used to Haul Our Recycle with Carlos, Our Golf Cart

     I decided it was not safe for us to drive, Carlos, our golf cart a mile out the Punta de Mita highway to deliver our own recycle items to the new Recycle Center. We would need to arrange for a truck to pick up and deliver our own recycle, so why not haul our neighbors' recycle at the same time?
The First Recycle Bin Signs

Our First Attempt at Signs for the Recycle Bins

    I now realize that I went about starting the "Calle Niños Heroes Recycle Program” on our street a little backwards, but the end result is what’s important, after all. So, here’s the process we used. My first step was to find a way to have sturdy bilingual signs made for the two types of recycle bins we would build, plastic and glass. After googling "bilingual recycle signs", I found a source that could ship them from the U.S., but the cost was well over $50 U.S. per sign including shipping. That wasn't going to work! I had to find local printer.
Israel Lozoya at "Print On" in Sayulita

     Thanks to many helpful answers to my request on the "Sayulita People" Facebook group, I learned about Israel Lozoya and his printing shop, "PRINT ON". He has printed our initial set of eight signs and was friendly and prompt with his service. We've lived here for over two years and just discovered that his shop is on the corner of Avenida Revolución and Calle Miramar! It was becoming clear that getting involved in a project in your Mexican town helps you learn a lot about the community. It also has forced me to learn to speak more Spanish. 
The Wire Fencing (Malla)   
Jon Forming Fencing Material into Recycle Bins

     Our next step was to find the right fencing material, called malla in this area. Jon was determined to use sturdy material, not chicken wire, so the bins would hold up. After visiting three hardware stores in Sayulita without luck, we decided to take a bus ride to Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta to see what they stocked. On our walk from the PV bus stop to Home Depot, we passed a metal supply shop, Aceros Ixtapa, and decided to check their stock and prices. We found the perfect wire fencing, with 5 X 5 cm. square holes, 1.22 meters tall, and 20 meters long. Jon estimated he would be able to build 5 bins for plastic recycle, 23 inches in diameter and the full 1.22 meters tall, and 4 bins for glass recycle, 17 inches in diameter and half as tall, from each roll.
The Chain and Locks
     Home Depot stocked the same fencing, though at a slightly higher price. We purchased 6 meters of chain and two master locks with keys to be used to lock our first two sets of recycle bins to a power pole. We had been told that if we didn't lock down the wire baskets, they would disappear to be used for chicken coops or to be sold to the metal recycler for a few pesos. We were determined that wasn't going to happen after all of our hard work.
     Back at Aceros Ixtapa's, we purchased one roll of the wire fencing, then set about finding a taxi that could haul it home in his trunk. That, in itself, was a comedy. We watched in horror as the fencing salesman tried to wrestle and shove the heavy roll of sharp wire fencing into the trunk of the first taxi to arrive, a shiny, new car without a scratch on it. I'm sure the taxi driver was cringing, too, but watched without showing any emotion, until finally he calmly shook his head and quietly said he would call another taxi for us. The second cab driver popped his trunk, hefted the heavy roll up and threw it into his trunk without hesitation. No problema! After negotiating a fare, we hopped in and headed for Sayulita, excited to start building recycle bins. Even starting a neighborhood recycle program turns into an adventure for us!
Jon Builds the First Two Bins
Crimping the Wires to Form the Seam of a Tall Bin for Plastic

Forming & Attaching the Wire Bottom

Jon Attached the Recycle Signs to the First Bin

Set Up & Chained the First Pair of Plastic & Glass Bins!

Assistance from Neil Lamb of Amigos de Bucerias
     As we worked through our system for building and signing the recycle bins, we received a huge amount of help from Neil Lamb, the Recycling Coordinator for the Amigos de Bucerias. I contacted Neil through their website and was very impressed with their recycling system and his tireless replies to my questions. He sent me photos of their bins and signs. We decided to adopt their sponsor sign idea, naming ourselves and Zumba with Terry in Sayulita as the sponsors of the first 8 recycle bins in the "Calle Ninos Heroes Recycle Program", adding our phone number in case of questions or service needs. 
     Neil emailed me with another source for the fencing material, Aceros Murillo in Bucerias, closer to us and slightly less expensive. He also told me that they get their Recycle and Sponsor signs at Atmoshera Creative in Bucerias and their bulk price is slightly less than we are paying. It's always good to have alternate sources for material. Thanks you Neil, for all of your help. It looks like Bucerias is doing a great job of recycling.
Neil Lamb & the Amigos de Bucerias with Their Recycle Bins

Our Sponsor Signs for the First 8 Recycle Bins

Getting the Kids Involved
     We decided to set up the second set of recycle bins on the corner of Ninos Heroes and Coco Sur, an area used to pile trash for the garbage men. Since it was across the street from a tienda (small food store) and a taco stand, it appeared that a huge number of plastic bottles were dumped into the trash daily. Recycle bins on this corner should greatly reduce the volume of trash!
     When we hauled the two bins to the corner and Jon began digging a flat spot in the dirt to set up the bins, the neighborhood kids surrounded us wanting to know what we were doing. A ten-year-old girl started pointing to the recycle signs and reading, "Botellas Plásticas Leche Soda Aqua” and then, “Vidrio Solamente”. So, I grabbed a couple of plastic soda and water bottles off of the ground and tossed them into the taller bin, saying "Si, plástico!” Within minutes, there were six or seven children surrounding me, calling “plástico!” and showing me plastic bottles and cups. I showed each one how to look for the triangle on the bottom indicating that the item was recyclable, then said “Si, plástico!” The child would excitedly throw their item into the plastic bin and then dash off to find more plastic trash lying on the ground.
     Who knew recycling plastic could become a game? Those children were so excited about this new game that they dragged me up the street and through vacant lots, picking up plastic and glass. I carried a couple of empty plastic bags I’d found on the ground for garbage. When someone showed me an item that didn’t have the recycle triangle on the bottom, I told them “basura” and offered my bag for the trash, encouraging them not to throw it back on the ground. Part of the training needed in México is to stop throwing trash on the ground or in the rivers. But first, they need a place to put their trash and recycle.
Part of Our Ninos Heroes Recycling Team

Recycle Flyer Passed Out to Neighbors on Ninos Heroes

     When the children could no longer find plastic or glass recycle to put in the bins and we had made an improvement by picking up trash scattered along the street, I handed each child one of the Recycle Flyers we had designed. Jon told them in Spanish to take the flyers home to show their parents. We watched as the children scattered, each excitedly showing a parent their flyer. We felt good about our progress that day.
     I will never forget what the little 10-year-old girl said to me at one point as we scoured the hills for recycle and trash. She spoke in Spanish, simple words so that I could understand, "This is a good thing we are doing." I answered, "Si, es muy bueno," and we smiled at each other.
The Recycle Bins are Filling & The Trash Pile is Reduced

Next Hurdle--Recycle Pickup and Transfer to the Sayulita Recycling Center
     The Amigos de Bucerias are way ahead of Sayulita in their system for hauling recycle to the recycle compound. They have a trailer and two regular drivers who tow it, taking 6 to 8 hours with a 3-person crew to pick up all of the recycle in Bucerias, usually every two weeks. During high season they have a four-person crew including the drivers. Recycle pickup is a big job.
     We know recycle pickup and transfer to the Sayulita Recycling Center is going to be one of our biggest hurdles to clear. The first four recycle bins are almost full and we will need to empty them soon. We plan to bag and store the plastic and glass until we have at least enough to fill a pickup bed. We still need to determine who we will call to haul the recycle to the Sayulita Recycle Center, but we have neighbors who are interested in having their accumulated recycle hauled at the same time. We will get that organized next. We have until February 10, when the Centro de Reciclaje de Sayulita (Sayulita Recycling Center) opens to figure out a plan for the hauling of recycle for the "Calle Ninos Heroes Recycle Program".
What Does It Mean to Sponsor a Recycle Bin?
     Without an organized recycle pick up program in Sayulita, each person who sponsors a recycle bin is responsible for building the bin or buying one that Jon has built. But that is just the first step. The sponsor is also responsible for keeping the bin(s) clean and free of trash, empty them into trash bags when they are full, and arrange for transfer to the recycle center (or finding someone to manage this for your bin). If you are interested in sponsoring a recycle bin, contact me through my Facebook Page "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico" or this blog. To obtain a plastic recycle bin built by Jon, including sign, chain, lock, and delivery, a 600 peso donation is needed. To obtain a pair of recycle bins, one for plastic, and one for glass, built by Jon, including signs, one chain, lock, and delivery, a 1000 peso donation is needed. Let’s see how green we can make Sayulita!
Our Next Goal: Recycle Bins in the Sayulita Plaza
Long Term Goal: Recycle Bins all over Sayulita and a Regular Recycle Pickup Program.

     Have you read my "Healthy Living in Mexico" 3-book" series? Only $11.97 for all 3 books on

     I invite you to SIGN UP for my "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Newsletter", published monthly with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books.
  To read more, check out my website at
Terry L. Turrell, Author


  1. Great job Terry and Jon! It is so important to get the children involved. I will be doing the same thing here in the Tamarindo area of Sayulita and am also eagerly waiting for the recycle center to open to the public. In the mean time I have selected a designated location on Calle Pelicanos at "Mariana's Mini Super" for people to drop off their recycle. I would like to order two plastic recycle bins from Jon please to add to our existing bins! Will the bins come with a recycle sign? Thank you both for initiating your Nino Heros program. May we all come together and reduce and recycle.

    1. Thank you, Debra and Dave, for reading my article and for helping with the recycle program in Sayulita. It's great that you are concentrating your efforts in the Tamarindo area of Sayulita. Jon is working on building two recycle bins for plastic for use in your neighborhood. I will design your recycle signs today and get your approval before I order them from "Print On". Yes, your recycle bins will come with the signs attached. Let's keep in touch to share tips on what is working with our recycling programs.

  2. Love this Terry! You two are definitely making a positive impact on your community. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you, Linda and Don! I appreciate your compliment, and that you read my blog articles. Jon and I are enjoying life in Sayulita and planning a 25th anniversary "vacation" in Puerto Vallarta, by motorhome, of course. Hope you guys are doing well.

  3. It was so smart and generous of you to set this up and get the community involved, especially the children, as they are the future. So proactive and forward-thinking! I hope that your initiative will spread far and wide in Sayulita and provide a model for other towns to get moving on this important environmental issue.

    1. Thank you, Emily. I appreciate your confidence in our recycling efforts. Thanks for reading and commenting!