Givan Guadalupe, 16 years old, had never attended the activity that has been held for just over two decades to clean the country’s coastlines. This year, the eleventh grade student at Pablo Casals School, in Bayamongot up early and decided to go to the Maritime Front of Catanoone of the almost 200 bodies of water on the island where this event took place today, Saturday, simultaneously.
“I wanted to come where I was born (Catano) to see what the beaches are like here,” he said.
But what he found left him very sad and worried, he lamented.
“I found a can (of soda) with a little crab inside, which couldn’t get out and ended up dying of hunger,” he said, still dismayed.
Cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles and lids, glass, paper and plastic bags, cans and other plastic materials They are part of the marine trash most frequently found in Puerto Rico and around the world, according to Ocean Conservancymanaging organization of the International Coastal Cleanup.
“This year, we have more than 4,000 volunteers and we have more spaces impacted. Last year, there were 117 (places) and this year, 167,” he said. Karem Perez Gonzalezexecutive director of Scuba Dogs Societya non-profit organization that leads the activity on the island, with the support of the entity For Nature.
With more spaces impacted, he said, the 21st edition of the event was expected to help collect more trash.
According to the Ocean Conservancy, a plastic bag takes 10 to 20 years to decompose, while an aluminum can takes 200 years and a plastic bottle takes up to 450.
“The importance of this activity is to educate. That’s why we gather volunteer captains and educate them on the importance of harvesting and keeping our natural resources clean. As they document (the collected garbage), they learn. Everything is done with a citizen scientist protocol and the data base is used to promote public policy,” he indicated. Sandra Schleier Hernandezprogram coordinator for Scuba Dogs Society.
According to the marine biologist, the main mission is to prevent soil, water and air pollution. Plastics, she mentioned as an example, become microplastics, which humans then breathe and eat through the food chain.
Schleier Hernandez recalled that the Law 51 of 2022 prohibits the use of single-use plastics. This, she said, will force citizens to adopt a culture of reuse. According to the biologist, several agencies are currently drafting the regulations for this statute which, as of June 1, 2024, will begin to impose fines for non-compliance.
For its part, Rigel Lugodirector of Communications for Para la Naturaleza, reported that, in this edition of the event, rivers were included in the massive cleanup. The organization that promotes the conservation and protection of natural ecosystems also took the opportunity to organize two planting events of more than 600 red mangroves in Ceiba and sea cow.
“It is important that garbage is collected for health. Reforestation helps to rehabilitate rivers and their accounts and that helps prevent floods,” she said.
Lugo stressed that a future goal should be to find less marine litter. For this reason, he advocated for a country project aimed at proper waste management, as well as reuse and recycling strategies.
The mayor of Catano, Julio Aliceacommented that the Catano Maritime Front is a tourist space, for which he seeks to obtain government permits that would declare it as such by 2028. The official recognized that cleaning is a crucial aspect to achieve this, and commented that there is a brigade of 25 employees in charge of keeping the coast clean.
Preliminary data collected until 4:00 pm today, Saturday, reflected the collection of more than 55,000 pounds of garbage throughout Puerto Rico, extracted from the 167 natural spaces worked with more than 4,000 volunteers.