Large Scale Community Cleanup
Several months ago The Belize Tourism Industry Association San Pedro Chapter asked ACES and other organizations to partner with them to host the largest garbage cleanup this island has ever seen.
The San Pedrito "Highway" was built right through protected Red Mangrove seemingly to accommodate the ever increasing amount of heavy trucks that clog the once quiet streets of San Pedro.
This new "highway", a road that is barely a few years old, now threatens the surrounding ecosystem and all waters connected to it. Since its construction, the mangrove and critical wetland on either side of the road have been used as a dumping ground by everyone from private contractors, garbage collectors, town council vehicles, and everyday citizens ridding themselves of their household waste.
In such a short space of time, dumping garbage of all sorts has become the norm, and it is done unashamedly in broad daylight for all the world to see.
The BTIA decided enough was enough. As well as the obvious health implications of an unimaginable amount of garbage leeching into water so close to the reef, the garbage was an eyesore and was the second thing seen by visitors to the island as the road runs parallel to the runway.
The goal was to hit 4 major problem areas on the island, starting on the highway, moving to DFC's garbage road (pictured above, then onto Boca Del Rio and San Mateo.
A plan of attack was formed, funds raised, back hoes, trailers, trucks, drivers, and food were donated. Schedules were made, volunteers organized, and workers were hired using the funds raised. On the morning of Friday the 9th we set to it bright and early on the San Pedrito Highway.
It started out easy enough. The large items were pulled from the mud and mangrove and soon trailers full of fridges, freezers, ovens, TV's, butane tanks, golf cart chassis and furniture were being hauled to the waste transfer site by and endless flow of vehicles.
Unfortunately, after day one it became apparent we weren't moving onto the other sites anytime soon. The more garbage we pulled out, the more we found buried underneath. The garbage trucks and trailers hauling the trash couldn't keep up with the amount being pulled out and large piles sat by the road waiting collection.
As the end of day 4 approached, the sense of accomplishment felt from the literal thousands of pounds of trash removed out of the ecosystem, was sadly overshadowed by the fact that the San Pedrito Highway was not finished, and will likely never be finished. With all that'd we'd done, there was still so much to do one this one road. None of the other areas were touched, but people and funds are exhausted, and one can't help but wonder, with all the effort put in, with all the people who showed up to volunteer their time, if we couldn't get it cleaned now, will it ever be cleaned?
As negative as this post may be, there are a lot of positives here. The community came together for the good of the island and her health. People from all walks of life broke their backs pulling and sorting garbage under the blazing Caribbean sun. Those who couldn't help physically made donations in the form of cash, food, water, garbage bags and vehicles. We may not have completed what we set out to. Maybe we aimed too high in too short a time frame underestimating the extent of the problem. But 150 volunteers and 30 paid workers accomplished a great deal over this long weekend. There is thousands of pounds of garbage that is no longer contaminating the ecosystem, damaging the reef and killing wildlife.
Thank you to the BTIA, the volunteers, to the paid workers, the sponsors, the donors of food, water, supplies, vehicles, and money for these items. Thank you to the transfer station for waiving fees for the 4 day event.
On our end, a special thanks goes to Fondation Brigette Bardot whose generous grant paid for our new ACES utility vehicle that ran all day, every day hauling truck beds and trailers full of garbage from our precious wetland habitats.
What can we do from here now this scheduled community clean up is over?
Be vigilant. If you see someone dumping, call them out, take photographs and report them. Let the world know they think their right to dump where they please to save a few minutes and dollars is more important than children growing up in a healthy environment. If you have your garbage collected and removed, request the transfer station receipts so you know your trash is going where it should. If you see a children littering, speak to them, reach them on a personal level and try to teach them the importance of a trash-free environment.
This has to be a community effort for the sake of the community.
We cannot fail at this, for we will be failing ourselves and future generations to come.