In early August Waste Free Oceans went on a tour of the Dominican Republic to understand the problems and explore the solutions related to waste management in the country. This all in an effort to document and portray the ongoing efforts to close the illegal landfills down, reduce the impact on the local population and environment as well as support the development of recycling systems in the country. Since 2020, the government is on a campaign to close down these sites and develop collection and separation points in line with international standards. DO Sostenible, a Public-Private Trust Fund for the Integral Management of Solid Waste is in charge of such efforts and presented WFO with the ongoing efforts.
Over 11 000 metric tons of waste is produced on a daily basis in the Dominican Republic. This is due to a high usage of single-use products, high poverty rates and the lack of a recycling culture and infrastructure. This is further exacerbated by years of mismanagement of public waste management funds for the construction of collecting, sorting and recycling centres. As a result, mountains of waste have emerged throughout the country developing into sources of socio-economic activities as well as health and environmental disasters. Informal waste pickers sort and collect waste without any form of protection. Fires regularly erupt resulting in the propagation of toxic gases throughout adjacent neighborhoods while toxic liquids flow into crop plantations and river streams used by locals for food and sanitary purposes.
The government is making significant progress in the closure of these sites and the restoration of the biodiversity found in these areas. As Juan Pichardo, Communication Director for DO Sostenible, mentioned during our visit: “it is about turning flies into butterflies”. A good example of this is the closure of the illegal landfill in Dajabón. In only two months, the government managed to remove the waste and build a transfer station which will legally employ some of the waste pickers from the dumpsites. Incredible progress has been observed in environmental terms with the return of birds, fish and frogs in the nearby pond.
WFO truly appreciates the efforts by Juan and his team to transform these dumpsites into livable ecosystems. Through the documentary filmed in the Dominican Republic we hope to raise awareness to locales as well as the international community. WFO will continue to assist the Dominican Republic in working towards a circular economy and turn the country into a regional champion.