Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recycling in San Pancho

If you don’t have a lot of money, you have to make do with what’s at hand, so commonplace materials are used for multiple purposes in San Pancho. A big olive oil tin, cut down and with a stick for a handle, becomes a dustpan. Salt rubbed into a copper pot with a sliced lime does a nice job as a metal polish. If our painter needs a funnel, he inverts a plastic bottle and cuts off the bottom. The carpenter seals and stains wood with his old motor oil. These ingenious measures are good for San Pancho’s environment, but that is incidental. The motivation is to save a few pesos.

In addition to being economical, recycling can fulfill an artistic impulse. Guys who work in garages, for example, seem to be inspired by discarded car parts, though they probably aren’t thinking “reduce, reuse, recycle.” A man-sized Pink Panther sculpture constructed from mufflers and tailpipes stands at the entrance to a nearby mechanic’s shop. I’ve seen carburetors, bolts and oil filters transformed into sculptures of horses and female torsos.

A formal recycling program was started recently in San Pancho, and we needed it. EntreAmigos (, a non-profit that does good works in the village, and Alianza Jaguar, a conservation program, placed recycling canisters on the main street and set up a drop-off center for glass, aluminum and plastic. Then entreAmigos spearheaded the construction of Recicla Parque, a playground built entirely of plastic bottles, shopping carts, tires, fishing nets, drainage pipes and other debris. They operate Trabajarte, a program so women so can make and sell craft items out of recycled materials.

Now we are officially doing something “green” in San Pancho, but recycling is not a new idea here. A quote I like from Teddy Roosevelt -- “Do what you can with what you have where you are” -- comes to mind when I see people making good use of stuff that could have ended up in a landfill.

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