What we do
What we do
The Azulita Project promotes community health through youth programs, sustainable organic farming workshops, plastic recycling, art and education programs in Guerrero, Mexico by creating a replicable, sustainable business model that incentivizes environmental stewardship.
The Azulita recycling program actively removes up to 1 ton of plastic waste a day from the Los Llanos region. Prior to the Azulita Project, this waste would have been burned or tossed away, polluting local beaches and, ultimately, the ocean.
Azulita team members purchase plastic waste from local residents, clean the materials, and create bales of crushed plastic containers. When the Azulita plant has compacted between 10 to 15 tons of waste plastic—equivalent to a semi-truck load—the bundles are delivered to the city of Guadalajara where they are sold to a recycling facility. The proceeds from plastic sales are reinvested into the business, the community, and other Azulita initiatives.
Others have attempted to start recycling programs in the region but have failed for various reasons, including lack of local interest and sustained motivation by residents and visitors.
The Azulita Project recycling program is successful due to its innovative incentive-based model that has dramatically increased local recycling participation. Inspired by the effectiveness of deposits on glass bottles and the value of various metals, Azulita created a privately subsidized buy-back program that places value on post-consumer plastic and encourages residents to collect waste plastic and deliver it to the Azulita facility.
Where we work
Where we work
Los Llanos, Guerrero, Mexico
The Azulita Project is an innovative program in the rural town of Los Llanos, Guerrero, Mexico, located approximately 37 km north of the city of Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast.
Los Llanos, population 845, is somewhat of a hub for several nearby mountain towns and beach communities. The local economy is rooted in agriculture-- primarily coconuts and mangos-- and is supplemented by ocean fishing and tourism.
Playa Saladita is a beach community about 3km from Los Llanos. Fishing plays an important role in this community, and its beautiful beaches offer top-class surfing.
The Azulita Project recycling program positively impacts more than 100 km of Pacific Ocean shoreline. Before the Project incentivized the collection of plastic waste, plastic waste was burned or discarded in open pits.
The Azulita Project was born from the desire of several individuals to create a healthier and more environmentally sustainable community and world. Moved by the rampant plastic pollution and overuse of chemical pesticides in the Los Llanos region, the four original founders—Mike, Lainie, Erwing, and Pato—joined forces in 2008 to create the Azulita Project.
In its initial form, the Azulita Project was a volunteer “communitarian” effort which included organic farming education programs, a recycling project, a youth soccer league, dance instruction, English classes and a community space for teaching and gathering.
In 2014 the Project founders reorganized the recycling portion of the project in pursuit of an effective and sustainable business model. The concept was simple: create an economic incentive for people to recycle plastic and create well-paying jobs.
Mike and Lainie were originally drawn to this part of Mexico for its surfing. They quickly fell in love with the area and the local people. Over the course of several years, they built a home, raised their kids and became part of the community. They are both passionate about and have experience in biology, conservation, education and grassroots community engagement.
Erwing is a native of Los Llanos but spent much of his teen years in the U.S. After school he chose to leave the U.S. and return to his home in Mexico. He wanted to live, work and have a family in his own hometown. He has always believed he could do good things for his town and its people and has dedicated much of his time and resources to these causes.
Pato “Azulita” Leon is from Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan. Pato originally created the name 'Azulita' for his brand of handmade silkscreened T-shirts and artwork. Azulita literally means "little blue" and is meant to embody the spirit of the feminine and the waters of mother earth. As an artist, surfer and a teacher, Pato has a lot of passion, talent and is well educated in the principles of organic farming principles. For many years he has travelled throughout the region and all of Mexico and generously taught local farmers successful methods for creating organic fertilizers and natural pesticides. His practices embody the highest form of recycling, using local natural materials and turning them into rich compounds that nourish and protect plants, crops, farmers and consumers.