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Environment

Guatemala Is Using 'Bio-Fences' to Curb Plastic Pollution


Why Global Citizens Should Care
An estimated 90% of plastic waste in the ocean comes from just 10 rivers. Guatemala is stepping up to the plate to reduce plastic pollution and protect the environment. Join us in taking action on this issue here.

Guatemala is taking action to improve its waste collection efforts by deploying bio-fences that trap plastic waste, Digital Journal reports.

The country has a poor track record when its comes to waste management, according to The Telegraph. Honduras, its neighboring country, has blamed Guatemala for creating an "environmental disaster" after photographs showing miles of floating trash off the coast of Roatan, a Honduran island, were released.

While responsibility for the "sea of trash" is likely shared among countries in the region, Guatemala is stepping up to the plate to put solutions into place.

Take Action: Take the Pledge: #SayNoToPlastic

Two bio-fences, which act as nets for plastic travelling downstream, are being installed in the Motagua River to catch trash and make it easier for communities to collect and dispose of it properly. Along with the bio-fences, Guatemala plans to improve its wastewater treatment facilities and reduce individual use of plastics.

Guatemala is "actively fighting plastic pollution through innovation and community participation," Alfonso Alonzo, the country's minister of environment and natural resources, said in a statement.

"The problem of plastic is immense, and it affects all of us ... While the problem of plastic trash is serious on the Pacific coast, it's catastrophic on the Caribbean coast," Colum Muccio, administrative director of the Association for the Rescue and Conservation of Wildlife (ARCAS) Guatemala, told Digital Journal.

Muccio has tracked the path of plastics across Guatemala, finding that rivers are carrying plastic waste hundreds of miles and unloading them on beaches and in other water bodies.

"This plastic trash ... stays at the surface of the beach's sand, remaining buried up to half a meter deep," he said.

Many land and marine species are at risk as a result of marine litter. For sea turtles, which live in the region, ingesting pieces of plastic can be deadly.

Read More: This Is the Deadly Ocean Plastic We Should Be Paying Attention To

Guatemala is not the only country dealing with plastic pollution — it's an issue that affects communities and ecosystems around the world.

Up to 13 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year and around 90% of it comes from just 10 rivers, according to a study published in 2017. Reducing plastic in these major rivers by 50% could reduce the amount of waste that flows from river to oceans by 45%.