Costa Rica Pineapple Industry
Pineapples are popular around the world, but as a tropical fruit, they can only be grown in certain regions.

In Europe, almost 75 percent of pineapples are imported from Costa Rica, but Costa Rica’s pineapple industry is riddled with a number of social, environmental and health issues.

Social Issues

In Costa Rica’s pineapple industry, the average worker is paid the equivalent of $83 a week for over 80 hours of labor. When European supermarkets lowered the price of pineapples, the first expenses that industry decreased were workers’ wages.

Around 70 percent of plantation workers in Costa Rica are migrants, usually from Nicaragua, and as a result, they are exploited by their employers. Because many of the workers are not citizens of the country, they have a constant fear of deportation if they complain about working conditions.

Only about 2 percent of industry workers are members of a union. This is a result of continued discrimination since union members within Costa Rica’s pineapple industry are often assigned on positions that are lower paid or less desirable.

Women are often discriminated, and the find it hard to get a job or they even get fired when they become pregnant. This is due to the high costs of maternity leave and the fact that many women cannot work long hours due to obligations at home. In addition to these issues, there have also been reports of sexual abuse.

Health Risks and Environmental Degradation

Pineapples on these large plantations are grown as monoculture crops. This lack of diversity in farming results in high levels of pesticide and chemical use in order to maintain high yields.

Costa Rica’s pineapple industry is notorious for its use of toxic agrochemicals, such as Paraquat, that is illegal in the European Union and classified as likely carcinogenic in the United States.

Plantations are often sprayed with over 50 types of chemicals. While the law requires that individuals working with these chemicals work only six hours each day, many are working up to even 16 hours. These high levels of exposure raise significant health concerns for laborers.

In addition, there are negative environmental impacts as well. These chemicals contaminate the surrounding environment and seep into local water sources.

Many communities bordering pineapple plantations in Costa Rica are now forced to rely on government tanks for drinking water after reports of skin disease, respiratory problems, birth defects and other illnesses.

Aside from pesticides, the pineapple industry in Costa Rica triggers environmental degradation through malpractice causing soil erosion, sedimentation and deforestation.

Steps Towards Improvement

In response to the multitude of concerns raised by the Costa Rica’s pineapple industry, the government has implemented a five-year moratorium on new plantations and is creating legislation to limit pesticide usage.

As of 2008, Paraquat cannot be applied as an aerial spray, and some insecticides have been banned.

Companies have also made efforts to improve conditions for their employees and cover the costs of more sustainable practices.

One of the largest companies, Dole, has certified all of their plantations in Costa Rica in accordance to U.S. Fair Trade standards.

The Costa Rica USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA), part of the Costa Rica Green Growth Program, invested $4 million in 2017 towards improving sustainability, increasing access to international markets and supporting rural communities.

The pineapple industry in Costa Rica struggles with low wages, long working hours, gender discrimination and toxic chemicals use.

Pressure to meet the high social and environmental standards of the global market, however, is sparking promising change.

Continued efforts towards better working conditions and sustainable practices are necessary to improve the lives of pineapple laborers and the surrounding communities.

– Georgia Orenstein

Photo: Flickr

Plastic pollution in IndonesiaIndonesia is second only to China as the world’s largest contributor to plastic pollution. Between 1.15 million and 2.41 million tons of plastic waste contaminate the oceans each year. Of this, Indonesia is estimated to contribute roughly 200,000 tons of waste from its rivers and streams. Plastic pollution in Indonesia has become a huge nuisance.

Four of Indonesia’s rivers, Brantas, Solo, Serayu and Progo, rank among the top 20 most polluted rivers in the world. Even though Indonesia possesses about 6 percent of the world’s fresh water, its public water is contaminated with E. coli, fecal matter and other harmful pathogens. The water supply has become undrinkable due to this contamination. Approximately 80 percent of the Indonesian population lacks access to water from pipes, therefore depending on river water for drinking, cleaning and bathing.

Lack of government investment in water pipes has caused the majority of the country to be dependent on water bottles or boiled river water for their consumption. Many Indonesian frequently use disposable plastics in forms of bags, cups, bottles and utensils, making plastic use a common part of their daily routine.

In order to halt plastic pollution in Indonesia, it is important to alter the country’s land-based waste management system. The government has committed to allocating $1 billion a year to drastically reduce the amount of plastic and waste products contaminating the country’s water sources. Indonesian Coordinating Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan made the declaration at the 2017 World Oceans Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali.

Pandjaitan notified representatives at the summit that Indonesia would reduce its marine waste by 70 percent within eight years. A few measures proposed to contribute to this reduction are the development of industries that use biodegradable materials to make plastic substitutes, widespread taxing of plastic bags and initiating a sustainable public education campaign.

In addition to public education campaigns and charges for plastic bags, the government is also initiating a new land-based waste management tactic: turning scraps into road materials.

These plastic roads, which are made of shredded, melted plastic waste mixed with road tar, are being promoted as an inexpensive and more durable surface than standard roadways. It is also an alternative to discarding the tons of plastic waste that sit in landfills and clog waterways.

On July 29, 2017, Indonesia laid out its first plastic road test, stretching 700 meters, at Udayana University in Bali. Officials now plan to use the dump mix on roads in the cities of Jakarta, Bekasi and Surabaya.

Plastic pollution in Indonesia is believed to approach 9.52 million tons by the year 2019, which is about 14 percent of the country’s waste. If each kilometer of road requires 2.5 to five tons of plastic waste, it could be used to pave 190,000 kilometers of roadway. This is a perfect illustration of the idiom “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and the new roads can contribute greatly to converting that waste into a useful material.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr