Hailing from Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, Alejandro “Che” Morales is the founder of the LECO Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to upcycle plastic waste, turning pollution into new products.
Alejandro’s work has not only kept his community clean, but it has provided the residents with affordable products and structures made entirely from what many would wrongly assume is unusable junk.
Additionally, Alejandro educates local children on the importance of sustainability, ingraining within them the desire to make their world a cleaner place.
Why Did Alejandro Morales Form the LECO Project?
Alejandro has always been conscious of his carbon footprint. He lives minimally, making money by selling homemade bread from his bike.
One day, while riding along the beaches of Santa Teresa, he noticed a huge accumulation of plastic waste, a stain on the beach’s natural beauty.
Racking his brain to come up with a solution to the ever-growing problem of plastic waste in his beloved community, he decided to contact his long-time friend Thomas.
Together, they designed a shredding machine that turned plastic wastes into tiny crystal-like flakes, which they would use to make their own products. At first, however, the pair recycled only their own waste.
Alejandro Morales Expands the LECO Project
As Alejandro and Thomas became more experienced in finding creative ways to turn waste into products, they realized what a benefit their shredding machine could have on their community.
They constructed a larger machine and set up 100 compost bins throughout the town, allowing residents to leave their plastic waste in a place where LECO could collect it.
By collecting plastic waste and performing cleanups of the beaches, they make Santa Teresa a more beautiful, healthier place to live in.
Additionally, speaks to local schools about the importance of conservation, even taking students to beach cleanups, where they get to play a vital role in the beautification of their town.
Alejandro Morales on the Importance of the LECO Project
Because plastic is not biodegradable, its constant production is harmful towards the environment.
Plastic products eventually break down into small fragments—called microplastics–which pollute ecosystems and cause damage to organisms.
According to Alejandro, since the advent of plastic, over 6,300.000,000 tons of it have been produced.
So much plastic wouldn’t need to be reproduced if we stopped throwing away our plastic products or found ways to upcycle unused plastic products, giving new life to what some would dismiss as junk.
This is why Alejandro’s work is vital. He is finding innovative ways to reuse plastics, turning things as simple as bottle caps into visually appealing structures.
To do what he does, one must possess a unique combination of creativity and altruism.
Examples of his work can be seen throughout the town. From signs to the lifeguard towers, much of what a tourist will see in Santa Teresa is constructed from upcycled materials.
What Method Does Alejandro Morales Use to Upcycle Plastic Waste?
Alejandro’s method of upcycling is surprisingly uncomplicated: After collecting plastic waste, he and his volunteers clean and classify it. It is then ground into small flakes, which are put into molds.
The molds are sprayed with release agents then put into the oven. They are taken out and cleaned and cut into squares, which can be thought of as building blocks.
To demonstrate his method’s efficacy, Alejandro and his team constructed a local school’s sign on-camera.
The only materials used to create the stunning piece of work were 20,000 bottle caps, showcasing that more can be done with less.
What Are Alejandro Morales’s Aspirations?
No matter how much work Alejandro and his volunteers put into the LECO Project, he knows that the organization itself will not rid the world of its plastic waste crisis.
While he takes pride in having even made minuscule improvements, he believes that the key to creating a conservationist society is education.
He hopes that the children he speaks to will take his message to heart, one day doing what he does and doing it even better.
“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 local lifeguard Gabriela Moreno.
Alejandro Morales Is a Hero
Alejandro does what he does because of his innate desire to leave a positive mark on the world. As evidenced by his lifetime of minimal living, he does not seek fame or fortune.
Instead, he simply saw a problem and decided that he would make a go at solving it.
Did You Miss Alejandro Morales’ Feature Video?
And while he’s certainly not a miracle worker, the impact of his work is evident in the altered perspectives of Santa Teresa’s youth. Through their actions, Alejandro’s legacy will live on.
To anyone planning on visiting Santa Teresa, he advises that you be respectful of the environment, as if it is your own home.
For more information on the LECO Project, please see the following links: