Community Trash

2016 washed a remote island ashore off the vulnerable coast of Mexico. Secret and partially preserved it was a spot of paradise the soul longs for. An under crowed yet daily changing island that will be completely different within five years. Already so much has changed in the past four years so it’s community members inform me. More people have come and even more as the travel trail whispers spread. I sincerely hope the population limit is somewhat controlled and people are conscious about their foot prints they bring and leave here. Environment education is key in small remote communities. 

The trash is typical here. No structured systems in appropriate place to cope adequately with it on the island or getting it off. Both the island and its wild life are under threat, not just from the tourists but from the corporates also. In Early 2017 a fire found to be started intentionally, spread across acres of the untouched mangrove. Conveniently where some fat cat pockets want to build gross and destructive all-inclusive tourism resorts. With some locals accepting the prospect of gaining a few extra hundred pesos a month, they will loose what wealth they may not see right now. It costs a lot to efficiently transporting the hazardous waste off of the island and no one seems to make much progression in dealing with it except from burning it all 24/7. They intentionally burn everything, everything. Some of it is dived at the trash site, and a few luxurious hotels do intentionally try separating it to some degree, but the piles indeed continue to grow sufficiently.

The island does have a few who do realise the benefit of composting, there has even been artist come to make trash sculptures on the site.

'The whale carcass'

It was my first week; I had strolled the beach numerous times seeing bits of trash rolling and floating, it wasn’t even high season. Sure you typically pick up what you can but at first it was never ending. I spoke with the owners of a hostel I was volunteering at and they gave the go ahead to utilize some of our time to rally a beach and street clean up with staff guest.  The offer was open to anyone else on the island willing to join in. We started close to the hostel and spread over time, actually I remember the first time we ever did it we collected 27 sacks of trash. We went on clearing school fields and local soccer pitches. Locals would use it as a hang out littering the area with their bottle tops and more even though there were bins provided less than five metres away.

At first people would laugh at us, point, stare. Weeks later, we were applauded, offered food, drink and verbal thank you’s. For me the pleasantest thing would have been to voluntarily join us, but I have been told I have high expectations of the human race. Three weeks in and not a native local had joined, It was up to us nomadic locals to make the necessary changes. By the end of my six months, things had changed slightly. Maybe not enough for my liking but it was a start.

There was, however, some hope. There was a local food and juice bar which had made an incentive for people to raise awareness and help clean up the problem of cigarette butts. For every 2 litres you would get $50 pesos of anything on their menu. This was absolutely fantastic for some local children because they don’t possess much money, it’s the honest truth so it was a rare treat and there was plenty to be picked up. Of course I had to support it, so I did it too. It was a great treat to have one of their awesome smoothies, and I was so happy that what we had started was starting to be noticed. After the juice bar the two local cell phone shop started to offer free charges or something similar to those who would collect bottles of the butts their too.

When you go to these unique places of paradise think carefully about the ecological impact you undoubtedly have, how much waste you contribute too, negative impact on the marine and local wildlife and also the local humans. Be conscious about what products you typically use, especially shampoos, gels and sunscreens. They all end up in the ocean.

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