Tackling plastic and poverty in Costa Rica

In November 2019, Xylem volunteers joined forces with Costa Rica Makes Me Happy (CRMMH) to help combat plastic pollution and to provide a family living in Tamarindo with clean water and a roof over their heads.

Plastic and waste management pose major problems in Costa Rica, with landfills overflowing and polluting the nation’s beaches and waterways. CRMMH is on a mission to tackle this problem through its programmes aimed at making the region cleaner, safer and a happier place to live.

The Xylem employees supported this mission through Xylem Watermark, the company’s corporate social responsibility programme. Their support for CRMMH’s Green Homes Initiatives extended to building a sustainable home and providing critical water access for a family, which they would not otherwise have been able to afford.

The volunteers spent a week in Tamarindo, located on the northwest coast of the country. They constructed the home, including fitting the roof, windows and bathroom facilities and installing a Planet Water AquaHome water filtration solution. The house was built using a timber frame and sustainable ECOBlocks, a material derived from mixing plastic recovered by Xylem employees from the beach clean-up with sand and cement.

Installed in a day, the Planet Water AquaHome filtration solution uses Xylem’s Flojet electric pumps to boost the collected water to go through the installed filters, purifying rain and ground water. Up to 120 litres of clean drinking water can be produced per hour, with 99.99% of microbial pathogens removed.

The system uses a photovoltaic panel to charge a 12V lithium battery, which can provide up to 100 watts of power to the Flojet motor-driven diaphragm pump. The pump pressurises the water, moving it through the on-board filtration and to the point of dispense. In addition to providing an on-demand supply of clean, safe drinking water, the system also provides auxiliary power – enough to operate five LED lights or to power other things, such as charging mobile phones. Xylem has installed the system in homes across Cambodia and India.

“It was extremely rewarding helping those in need and witnessing a slab of concrete on the ground be transformed into a fully built home in just one week,” said David Webber, a Xylem Watermark volunteer who joined the employee volunteer reward trip to Tamarindo.  He highlighted the positive outlook of the people in Tamarindo and praised their resilience. “Despite their modest means, their spirit continues to shine through,” he said.

This was the second house built in Tamarindo through the Xylem Watermark initiative. In addition to assisting with the build, volunteers also conducted a recycling education programme, participated in a beach clean-up, supported a local food kitchen and educated Tamarindo children about safe water, recycling, sanitation and hygiene. This important education has been proven to reduce illness and death, lower poverty and improve socio-economic development. Witnessing the impact their input has made in Tamarindo, the volunteers also pledged to donate funds into the future to support the operation of Tamarindo’s community centre.