A Community-Driven Waste Management, Recycling and Community Building Project

Minca Region, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia

Uncontrolled expansion and migration due to the rapidly growing tourism industry in Minca Colombia has been one of the main drivers of pollution and risks to public health in the Minca area– the gateway to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, one of the most biodiverse regions of Colombia. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta has also been declared a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Site, a title which is a risk due to poor waste management and no recycling system which is contaminates this unique ecosystem.

The main objective of the pilot project “Minca Limpia” is to develop an effective solid waste management system through the involvement and education of the local community and tourists. This project will impact an approximate population of 1200 people who live in Minca and the surrounding areas, in addition to tourists and visitors to the region, through the reduction of waste in public spaces and tourist locations.

The view from Pozo Azul, one of Minca´s main tourist destinations. Beautiful places like this to relax and enjoy nature are being contaminated due to a lack of infrastructure for waste management and recycling.


The tourism industry in Minca has been steadily growing since 2010. Tourism is an important means of economic development for the town, however the corresponding increase in garbage generation has caused many problems. The current solid waste management system is inadequate as garbage accumulates at collection points and tourists litter in public places. These problems are exacerbated by abandoned animals that open plastic bags looking for food to eat. There is currently no system for sorting and recycling of waste.

The accumulation of waste at tourist locations and along walking trails has negative impacts on tourism development, on public health and poses a threat to the regions biodiversity.

The community has identified three underlying problems which this projects purports to resolve:

  1. Environmental education. There is a lack of environmental education for the local population and tourists. It is clear that the culture for environmental care is low and there is little sense of belonging in the community.
  1. Infrastructure. A lack of adequate infrastructure for the classification, management and source-separated collection of garbage makes properly managing waste a challenge. This phenomenon is worsened by the presence of animals (dogs and donkeys) that open the bags of waste by scattering waste to eat organic material.
  1. Institutional responsibility: No institution has clear responsibility for environmental planning and control, leading to a lack of continuity and follow-up of previous programs initiated to address these issues.
E2E is intervening along with Misión Gaia, a local NGO, to solve the problem.
This project will develop solutions to the aforementioned problems through a pilot waste management and recycling unit to be expanded to the whole Minca community.

3 Main Negative Impacts

Negative impact on tourism development

through loss of amenity in tourist locations. 

Health impacts on the population of Minca,

particularly with water accumulating in plastic containers aiding the propagation of mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and Chikungunya

Threats to regional biodiversity,

which arise as trash accumulates in critical ecosystems, disrupting habitats, water flows and contaminating important food and water sources which sustain regional biodiversity.

How will E2E intervene?

  • Objective 1: Strengthen the environmental education program (PRAES) in rural schools to strengthen uptake of the recycling and waste management program.
  • Objective 2: Raise awareness amongst local businesses, public institutions and community members about good solid waste management practices applicable to the community of Minca.
  • Objective 3: Run permanent environmental actions like clean ups and events involving locals and tourists for proper solid waste management– particularly for hazardous waste which are not disposed of properly.

Together, Misión Gaia and E2E will improve recycling amongst local businesses and public institutions in Minca by implementing a weekly recycling collection. Source-separated materials will be collected from five designated collection points which we will construct in the town, and stored in a central storage facility. From here, recyclable materials will be transported to an association of recyclers in Santa Marta, INTERASEO.

Through face-to-face visits, local businesses will be encouraged to participate in this recycling collection system.

The goal is to reduce the volume of waste sent to the local Palangana landfill generated by local businesses and public institutions by at least 60%.


If you would like to learn more, contact us!