Dole’s Recycling Joint Venture In Costa Rica Celebrates 25 Years

This is a rare example of a recycling company that is completely vertically integrated within an industry that generates the waste.

Recyplast S.A., a plastic recycling company based in Costa Rica and with joint ownership including a subsidiary of Dole Fresh Fruit, recently surpassed 25 years in its mission to reduce and reuse agricultural waste.

According to Dole, the plastic recycling facility pioneered the collection of field plastics after use in banana-growing operations in Costa Rica. This reuse and recycling process includes reclamation of plastic bags that protect bananas from weather and insects, as well as the collection of plastic twine used to prop the banana plants and other plastics used to protect the fruit during cultivation. The field plastic is processed into plastic corner boards, which support and reinforce the structural integrity of shipping pallets. Even after arrival some Dole customers continue to recycle the corner board products down the chain.

Initially, Recyplast required a fee for collecting and recycling field plastic waste generated by the banana industry to finance its operation. Now the operation generates 105 direct jobs, stands financially independent and in fact pays small businesses and community organizations to provide basic raw material: plastic waste from other agricultural operations, as well as post-consumer waste from domestic uses.

Dole says that Recyplast has generated positive results in the plastic use and disposal in Costa Rica. These results have been extended throughout Central America as the recycler now imports waste from Guatemala and Nicaragua and will soon add Honduras.

At a recent celebration to honor its 25th year of operations, Jose Miguel Ramirez, General Manager of Recyplast, recalled how the operation has grown from producing four metric tons of plastic materials (derived from waste) per day, to over 21 metric tons today. This translates to the manufacture of 44,000 pallet corner boards each day—the equivalent needed to export over 500 containers of fruit.

Renato Acuña, president of Dole Fresh Fruit, was present at Recyplast’s 25th Anniversary celebrations held in April.

“This is a great example of social responsibility. It is clear that the leadership, dedicatio, and imagination demonstrated here are needed to respond to the increasing demands of our society,” stated Acuña. “The commitment of all the employees of the organization is more than evident, as is that of the community groups that manage the collection of domestic waste to be recycled.”