Ending the Plastic Pollution Crisis on the U.S.-Mexico Border

marinedebris | ocean

In January 2021, WILDCOAST installed a plastic retention system in the Los Laureles canyon tributary of the Tijuana River on the US-Mexico border. The device is an Elastec Brute Boom that consists of 8 HDPE floaters of 40 cm diameter and stuffed with expanded polystyrene. Each floater has a galvanized steel screen. The barrier is attached to concrete structures on the banks of the river through galvanized chains and steel shackles. We were excited to start 2021 with good news for our team. Since the device was installed, 4,000 kg of solid waste has been stopped before entering the Tijuana River estuary and the Pacific Ocean. Sadly, about 93% of the debris captured consists of plastic and waste tires.

Our local team works tirelessly to collect, process, and separate the trash. This process is extremely taxing and it is important to emphasize that the team on the ground is doing a great job. The next challenge is to establish a plan to efficiently recycle, repurpose and dispose of the captured debris.

WILDCOAST plastic retention system installed in Los Laureles Canyon, affluent of the Tijuana River in between Tijuana (Mex) and San Diego (U.S).

Through community outreach, the team will investigate: Who is truly recycling in Tijuana? The intention is to find local solutions to recycle plastic waste. This project provides an opportunity to reduce the consumption of plastics in Tijuana and trigger regional economic development through the recycling industry.

WILDCOAST is also working to inspire communities in Tijuana to change plastic consumption patterns overall. Through an innovative communication strategy, we are driving community members to action.

Since COVID has prevented WILDCOAST from working directly with the community, the team came up with these boxes placed in convenience stores to get people’s information to stay in touch, and suggestions and opinion on the work they are doing along the canyon.

Our outreach efforts began with forums that brought together Los Laureles residents to hear them out, and tell them about our goal to establish a community based plan to clean the canyon and reduce the amount of plastics that enter the river to begin with. As an adaptation to the pandemic, suggestion boxes were also installed in convenience stores throughout Los Laureles to procure further neighborhood feedback regarding the canyon clean up. So far we have received many responses that have demonstrated interest and creative suggestions as to how these goals can be accomplished. This response has been very exciting for us because we understand that community participation is crucial in creating real and long lasting change.

In March 2021, WILDCOAST inaugurated a community recycling program in Los Laureles with the collaboration of Fundación Coca Cola, México. After never having had a recycling system in Los Laureles, WILDCOAST is in the process of installing a mobile recycling center to pick up recyclable plastic twice a week in different areas of the neighborhood. The inauguration was attended by the Undersecretary of the Sustainable Development of Baja California, representatives of the municipal government, and many media outlets. The inauguration broadcasted this message to Tijuanenses: Reduce the amount of plastic you use, Re-use the plastic you have and Recycle all bottles and plastics. Since Tijuana City is also lacking recycling bins, WILDCOAST is placing them throughout the city for public use.

Community members bringing their recycling items to the bins that WILDCOAST has placed throughout Los Laureles Canyon Neighborhood.

We will also be working with local artists to facilitate the painting of murals and public installations in Los Laureles and central plazas in Tijuana to remind the community of the harm caused by single-use plastics. The creation of these installations will further inspire individuals to reduce their plastic consumption and be a part of the solution.

WILDCOAST team members chatting with members of the local community to raise awareness of the plastic pollution problems.

At WILDCOAST, we believe in the power of action and community collaboration. Therefore, we aim to provide spaces for local residents to learn and become involved with the process of combatting the plastic crisis.