Preventing Plastic Pollution and Promoting Biodiversity in Our Community.
As a coastal community, Juluchuca has a deep connection with the sea. We, and I think I can now count myself among us, spend our evenings at the beach either fishing or just enjoying a nice sunset with our families and friends. We comment on the changing tides, the amount of fish in the lagoon or the numerous species of birds that are active in the evenings.
Inevitably, we also talk about plastic pollution. Older residents lament “the good old days” before plastic waste became a problem. Today, it’s the younger generation who turn out in huge numbers for beach clean-ups and who lead our Juluchuca Limpio recycling project.
But what do Playa Viva Staff think about the problem of plastic? As part of our most recent staff environmental training, Lorenzo Locci, our La Tortuga Viva Sanctuary Coordinator, led a workshop on plastic pollution and how it affects marine ecosystems. He introduced Playa Viva’s Core Value of “Promoting Biodiversity” and how that connects to work of La Tortuga Viva. The goal of the training was to discuss why plastic is a problem, to introduce the concept of microplastics, and to show how plastic affects marine ecosystems.
A native of Italy, Lorenzo first shared quotes from St. Francis of Assisi about environmental stewardship and the importance of taking care of the environment. Afterwards, staff discussed a series of questions, such as “Why is the environment important to you and your family?”; “How would you define pollution?”; “What kinds of pollution exist and which are most common?”; “If plastic is a problem for our community, what can we do to address it?”
Older residents lament “the good old days” before plastic waste became a problem.
While participants recognized that the environment is essential to our wellbeing, they expressed frustration at the level of pollution that exists today. One group cited pollution from cars, factories, and individual homes who burn their trash. Others talked mainly about plastic and the need for it to be banned.
“I learned that plastic is a huge contaminant and that a lot of our plastic ends up in the ocean,” said Mari, a member of our housekeeping staff. “We really need to change this because it affects marine animals like turtles. Recycling is one good option to stop this.”
Lorenzo ended the session with an activity to demonstrate what happens when plastic reaches the sea. Participants formed a circle around a large bowl filled with rice. Mixed in with the rice were also pieces of plastic in various sizes. With the timer set to two minutes, each participant was given a small spoon and needed to collect as much rice as possible without capturing the plastic. When the time ran out, everyone realized they had quite a bit of plastic in their individual bowls, despite their best efforts to avoid it.
“This is what it is like for marine organisms out at sea,” Lorenzo explained, as he passed around pictures of fish and birds with stomachs full of plastic. “The rice represents the sea and what you want to eat. When we release plastic to the sea, marine organisms inevitably eat it and suffer. You can see that through the microplastics in your own bowl.”
By opening the conversation, Lorenzo created a space for our staff to really reflect on the issue of plastic pollution. While staff noted that there has been a significant improvement of plastic management and awareness in the past year in Juluchuca, they recognize that we still have a long way to go to truly become sustainable. For that reason, we will continue to do these periodic trainings to build upon our own learning and take tangible steps toward solutions. Our hope is that Playa Viva staff feel better equipped to talk about these issues with their friends and family, become true environmental leaders in their own communities and further committed to promoting biodiversity and cleaning up their ecosystem from plastics and other pollutants.