Building Plastic Bottle Schools in Nicaragua

While at Hacienda Merida on the Isla de Ometepe, we ran into Alvaro Molina, the hostel’s owner.  Molina and his family have taken on many local sustainability projects to benefit the island in addition to running their hostel.  Our favorite project was in building plastic bottle schools and other structures with recycled waste.

Building Plastic Bottle Schools in Nicaragua
Used bottles full of trash

One of the most unique projects Molina has taken on is a plastic and trash recycling initiative.  He uses a few different incentives to get Mérida locals to bring in old plastic bottles stuffed with trash they’ve collected.  Hiking guides must bring in bottles for the privilege of leading Hacienda Merida’s guests.  Locals can also pay with bottles for use of the hostel’s WiFi or massages.  Additionally, Molina will pay $.22 per bottle out of the hostel’s profits to anyone who brings them in.  Large families can stuff 30-40 bottles in one weekend and earn $8.00 extra for their needs.

Building Plastic Bottle Schools in Nicaragua
Alvaro Molina accepting some trash-stuffed bottles from local kids.

What are the bottles used for?  The answer is perhaps the most innovative part of this project!  Hacienda Merida uses them as building material for construction projects!  The bottles are used as the base and concrete is shaped around them to solidify the structures.  So far a large picnic table and benches have been built, and a one-room schoolhouse to be used by local children is in progress.  Molina is also planning to pay the teacher’s salary once the schoolhouse is up and running.

Building Plastic Bottle Schools in Nicaragua
Bottles used inside the schoolhouse wall.
Building Plastic Bottle Schools in Nicaragua
Schoolhouse in progress

It was great to see this unique, environmentally sustainable project being unselfishly funded by a successful hostel.  Hacienda Merida is a prime example of what can happen when a business invests in taking care of the local community and environment!

Hacienda Merida’s website

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Hacienda Merida in Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Hacienda Merida is located in a tranquil, off-the-beaten-track spot on the Isla de Ometepe in the middle of Lago Nicaragua.

Hacienda Merida in Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Formed by the convergence of two nearby volcanoes, Isla de Ometepe offers endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, fishing, swimming, and taking in the beauty.

Hacienda Merida is located in a tranquil, off-the-beaten-track spot on the Isla de Ometepe in the middle of Lago Nicaragua. 

Hacienda Merida is located in Mérida, a tiny village on the south end of the island near Volcán Maderas.  Run by an experienced, friendly, bi-lingual family, the hacienda provides everything backpackers need for a pleasant stay.  The family has makes it a priority to make their hostel healthy and eco-friendly, so you can be happy giving your money to people who care.  Comfortable dormitories and private rooms are available, as is a full restaurant serving lunch, a breakfast buffet, and a dinner buffet.  Hacienda Merida also provides information on local hikes, tours, and transportation, as well as renting kayaks and mountain bikes for exploration.  The lakefront dock is a great place to swim or sit and watch the sun set.  The staff is also very plugged into the local community and can help you find a volunteer opportunity if you are so inclined.

Hacienda Merida
Hacienda Merida’s dock in Lago Nicaragua
Photo Credit: Alberto Lanuza

Hacienda Merida is a great out-of-the-way hub for backpackers, run by earth-conscious and helpful folks.  As soon as you enter your room and smell the flowers on your bed, you’ll be glad you chose this place for your stay on Isla de Ometepe!

Services Offered:


Tour information


Mountain bikes


Sailing adventures

Horseback riding

Volunteer opportunities

Address: In Mérida, Maderas Volcano, Ometepe Island, Rivas, Nicaragua



Phone:  Telefonos Movistar (505) 8868 8973 / 8894 2551

 Telefonos Movistar (505) 2560 0496 / 2560 0493

This post was sponsored by Hacienda Mérida.

The hostel also has create a very cool project using trash to build structures and schools out of plastic bottles.  Click here to read more!