Alejandro “Che” Morales is the founder of the LECO Project, self-described as “a plastic recycling system, reusing and creating products from recycled materials.”
The organization serves Alejandro’s hometown of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. The presence of the LECO Project has not only kept Santa Teresa’s beaches clean, but it has provided townspeople with affordable products that come entirely from the waste that Alejandro and his volunteers collect.
Additionally, Alejandro speaks to school children about the importance of sustainability, ingraining within the youth the drive to continue the organization’s mission even after he is gone.
What Led to Alejandro Morales Forming the LECO Project?
Alejandro has always felt at one with the Earth. He has never been one to live lavishly, instead adopting a self-sufficient, minimalist lifestyle that leaves the smallest carbon footprint, but biggest impact on humanity, possible.
He describes his daily routine: “Well, I get up with the little monkeys in the morning. Around 5:30, they wake me up with their screams. I make coffee, and I chat with them for a while. I knead bread. I make homemade bread and sell it from my bicycle.”
While biking along the beach one day, Alejandro couldn’t help but notice an excess of waste washed ashore. Not one to simply turn away from problems, he pondered long and hard the ways in which he could prevent waste from continuing to taint the beauty of his town’s beaches.
“When we pick it up,” he said, “if it doesn’t get processed, it will end up right back in the garbage, and the process will never end.”
He reached out to his good friend Thomas, and together they designed a shredding machine that turned plastic waste into flakes that could be used to make products.
Alejandro Morales on What the LECO Project Does for Santa Teresa’s Community
The initial shredding machine that Alejandro and Thomas designed was incredibly small, made to only recycle their personal plastic wastes.
However, as the two became more skilled in turning their plastic wastes into products, they realized what a positive impact their machine could make in the community.
They constructed a larger shredding machine and set up roughly 100 compost bins around Santa Teresa.
Townspeople leave their plastic recyclables in these bins, and Alejandro and his volunteers collect them and turn them into products.
Gabriela Moreno, a local lifeguard, had the following to say about Alejandro: “We have always worked hand in hand. Lifeguards collaborate with LECO on beach cleanups… Santa Teresa’s lifeguard towers were made from 100% recycled plastic, all collected from local beaches.”
Additionally, Alejandro educates the youth on the necessity of conservation, speaking at local schools and even leading classroom beach cleanups.
Alejandro Morales on the Problem That the LECO Project Is Addressing
According to Science Exchange, “Most plastic is not recyclable and the vast majority does not biodegrade. Further, plastic products often break down into very small fragments called microplastics that can pollute ecosystems and harm organisms.”
As Alejandro himself puts it, “Since the advent of plastic, 6,300,000,000 tons of it have been produced.”
Clearly, at this point, humankind’s reliance on plastics is too great to simply cease using them. This is why the innovation of Alejandro’s work is vital to the environmental protection movement.
Instead of making the unrealistic demand that we stop using plastics, he and his volunteers have created new ways to reuse what most would consider junk, giving new life to items that would otherwise be washed upon a shore somewhere.
While the LECO Project can’t be responsible for saving the world, Alejandro feels happy in knowing that he is making even a minuscule difference.
“Today, the world’s most renowned soda company manufactures 1,000,000 bottle caps per minute,” he said.
“And in the last three years, I’ve come close to processing only 900,000 bottle caps… I know that it is an unequal fight. The generation of plastic is constant. But I recycle because it feels good to me.”
How Does Alejandro Morales Turn Plastic Waste Into Products?
The process by which Alejandro and his volunteers upcycle plastic waste is surprisingly uncomplicated: “We collect, clean, classify, then grind the materials into little flakes.
We put them into molds, spray the molds with release agents then put them into the oven.
Afterwards, we take them out of the mold, clean them, and remove the leftovers from the edges to make squares.”
The “squares” that Alejandro is referring to can be thought of as building blocks. To demonstrate the efficacy of LECO’s technique, Alejandro and his team performed an on-camera construction of a sign for a local school.
The only materials used to make the large sign were 20,000 bottle caps, collected by various members of the community.
What Are Alejandro Morales’s Goals for the Future?
Alejandro acknowledges that the LECO Project alone cannot solve the plastic waste crisis.
Therefore, one of his goals is to educate as many children as he can about the need for conservation, as that way, they will be able to one day do what he does and do it even better, hopefully even spreading his message to their own children, who will spread it to theirs, etc…
“Nowadays, you can see children at school collecting trash and making sure plastic bottles don’t go in the garbage bin, and that happens mostly because of him,” said Gabriela Moreno.
A more fantastical goal of Alejandro’s is to one day afford a whaling ship that picks up plastic from the ocean.
He says that he would like to accumulate enough plastic to provide the entire city of Santa Teresa with upcycled blocks to build homes..
Alejandro Morales on Heroism
Alejandro has devoted his life to helping others. He is adamant that heroism is rooted in the innate desire to change the world, even in an incremental way.
He rejects the notion that one should be heroic only in exchange for money or fame, as this would betray the very tenants that make one heroic in the first place.
“I think we all have talents. If we lose the fear of developing them, we can make ourselves and others happier. I do nothing for money, I do it for the sake of doing it, for personal satisfaction,” he said.
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Gabriela Moreno said of Alejandro’s heroism: “A hero saves lives. Alejandro’s work improves the quality of the lives of the people… He is a hero. He’s a good influencer.”
“Influencers are so popular now, and not all influencers are popular for good reasons. Ale is a good influencer. And he proves it with examples every day,” she stated.
To his audience, Alejandro leaves one message: Be conscious of how much you waste, and even the smallest effort to reduce it is noble.
Alejandro Morales Is a Hero
Alejandro has not only worked hard to collect plastic wastes and recycle them, he has also used his creativity to turn them into something new.
He has made the community of Santa Teresa a cleaner place and has educated the youth on how to keep his mission alive even when he is gone.
His service to the town is rooted in nothing more than an innate desire to see his fellow humans thrive.
Watch More Of Alejandro’s Videos About Turning Beach Trash Into Sustainable Treasure
Teaser Trailer – Watch the teaser trailer to find out how Alejandro “Che” Morales turns plastic bottle caps into sustainable building materials for his community in Costa Rica.
Feature Trailer – Watch the full trailer for plastic upcycler Alejandro “Che” Morales’ feature documentary.
Video Recap – Did you miss Alejandro “Che” Morales’ feature documentary “Turning Beach Trash Into Treasure?” Watch the recap to get caught up.
Music Video – Listen to Tarante Groove Machine’s viral hit “Babylon,” set to scenes from Alejandro’s feature documentary.
We Have A Waste Problem – Alejandro explains how he keeps beaches clean and helps his community through his LECO Project.
On Free Thought – Alejandro describes how making the right decisions led to the creation of the the LECO Project.
What Is Your Dream – Find out how Alejandro wants to expand the LECO Project into an organization that cleans plastic from the open ocean.
Transforming Plastic – Alejandro doesn’t upcycle plastic into building materials for the recognition he gets, he’s doing it to make the world a better place.
Trash Talk – Alejandro explains how important it is for the population to be aware about how much trash we each individually generate.
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