winnie hallwachs and daniel janzen

In the mid-1990’s Costa Rica was faced with a problem: a sizeable chunk of natural forest had been reduced to degraded pasture lands. While these pastures once served as lush feeding grounds for cattle, they no longer held nutritional value and served as a sad reminder of what the beautiful forest once was. People soon found themselves asking, how can depleted land become fertile again? How can we restore what has been lost?

American conservationists Winnie Hallwachs and Daniel Janzen developed a new, shocking method of reforestation in Costa Rica. With the support of environmental consultants to the authorities of Costa Rica, this method may very well become the standard recycling method for plant matter.


Reducing Waste

Although the reduction of single use plastics and industrial farming practices are hot-button issues today, they were not as well known in the 1990’s. People were just beginning to understand the difficulties surrounding waste disposal and land depletion. When Hallwachs and Janzen proposed pairing up with a processing plant to restore the land, it was a new, bold idea.

Located near the Guanacaste reserve, the “Jugos del Oro” processing plant was an extremely active company producing juice for worldwide distribution. With the production of juice came unavoidable waste – primarily in the form of orange peels and pulp debris. Disposing of this waste was not only costly but difficult, considering that there were few disposal companies in the area that would take on such a large amount of plant matter. As a result, Jugos del Oro was paying high shipping fees to take their peels and pulp elsewhere.


reforestation with orange peels

Reusing Byproducts 

Instead of seeing unusable waste, Hallwachs and Janzen saw room for opportunity. They posited that the Jugos del Oro byproducts could be used to help nourish the ailing natural forest. The team offered Jugos del Oro a vast area of forest to use as their dumping grounds in exchange for the donation of land. The company jumped at the offer, and began dumping tons and tons of peels into the Guanacaste forest.

In 2013 the conservationists returned to the land to see the results of their hopeful experiment. After 17 years, the biomass of the Jugos del Oro dumping grounds had increased a startling 176%. The experiment had succeeded beyond imagination.


Recycling in Costa Rica

What does this mean for the future of reforestation in Costa Rica? The scientists quickly learned that citrus peels not only nourish the land, but also act as a fertilizer; the Guanacaste soil produced a greater species of trees than anywhere else in the vicinity. Not only that, but the forest was built for longevity. As Janzen stated, “The intact rainforest does not burn, it cannot burn. It is too wet. When it is reforested and becomes a real live forest, it does not burn again.”

Scientists in Costa Rica are taking this method of recycling agricultural waste and running towards the future. As Costa Rica strives to go green by 2021, there is a greater focus being placed on finding new areas of forest to replenish. When  an ecosystem thrives, so do the animals and people living within it.

Join us in fighting for a brighter future – support eco-friendly businesses and travel with Gecko Trail!