Citizen engagement, sustainability, and tackling single-use plastic

The world faces a big threat: excessive pollution caused by tons and tons of plastic waste; especially single-use plastic. Through the years, Costa Rica has been recognized as an axis of global biodiversity, as it is often considered the most sustainable country in the world. However, Costa Rica did still produce 564 tons of plastic waste a day. To solve this problem, the Costa Rican government is set to prohibit single-use plastic by 2021. The team at essential Costa Rica thought this is a problem that needs to be solved immediately - why wait until 2021 if they could start right away?

Consumer brands would therefore need to redesign most of their plastic packaging. The team found the way to help them do it in a quick, and easy way to save time and money with zero budget via a campaign powered by the people - Why wait?

Engaging the community

Brands were encouraged to change their packaging by giving them what they needed: a friendly request from their own consumers. With the help of Preserve Planet, people were invited to become part of the solution, raising their voice against unnecessary plastic packaging by fin ding it & posting it on their social media - tagging the brand in a respectful way using the hashtag #plasticoinnecesario [#RubbishRubbish], giving the brand simple ideas about how this packaging could use less unnecessary plastic. Images of these posts are then curated and shared online at - a site created by Geometry and Possible, where industrial designers from Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC) and the Universidad Veritas suggest environmentally-friendly, practical and cost-efficient packaging alternatives. These are then reposted to the site and presented to the brand involved, to show them a better solution to the problem.

The team at essential Costa Rica want their citizens to become a benchmark for the rest of the world. Only 3 simple steps are needed to become part of the solution: Inspiring the change by taking a picture of the packaging, tagging the brand and using the hashtag #RubbishRubbish (#plasticoinnecesario).

Future Costa Rican professionals were engaged in the process to help save the planet via the creation of a website that collects all posts, where the students of the biggest industrial design faculties of Costa Rica, and volunteer designers, post simple and cost-effective solutions that can be immediately adopted. Manufacturers have been invited to consider the proposed solutions and some of the proposals have been as easy to implement as the removal of unnecessary layers of packaging, which has actually been cost-effective for brands.

Minimising plastic waste

It is estimated that simply eliminating only the unnecessary layers of plastic will avoid 46 tons of garbage every day and help brands achieve significant cost savings too! There have been c. 200 other proposed solutions, half of which have been implemented already. Brands involved include Walmart, McDonald’s, Marriott Hotels Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Cosí, Multiplaza Mall and Subway.

In the first 20 weeks of the campaign there were 249,000,000 fewer plastic pieces & 1,113 fewer tons of waste. The team at essential Costa Rica have joined consumers, brands, students, government, influencers & opinion leaders together in support of a good cause. Although this is a Costa Rican initiative, 12 additional countries have now also adopted elements of the plan.

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.