Plastic management in the Gulf of Honduras

Fundación Mundo Azul (FUNMAZ)  promotes the sustainable use of marine resources in Guatemala’s Caribbean, through social involvement and implementation of scientific and technical processes that will benefit coastal communities.

The Caribbean coasts of Guatemala and Honduras are part of the second largest Barrier Reef in the world and therefore their protection is of the utmost importance. The coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves that are found in the area are being affected by solid waste, sedimentation, nutrients and pollution from the Motagua River, causing an alarming visual impact and plastic debris injures and causes the deaths of fish, seabirds and marine mammals. This project will work with eight most affected communities in the Gulf of Honduras to reduce plastic pollution on the beaches of the Caribbean. This project will:
– recruit 20 volunteers from each community to act as regional representatives for their coast
– deliver at least 20 talks on environmental education to community groups, businesses, schools and universities about the harmful effects of plastic waste on habitats and species.
– organise at least 80 beach clean events which will not only collect, but also classify and record the waste to create social awareness, change habits and develop policies based on the findings

The Update

The project was successfully implemented in the eight communities on the Gulf of Honduras – four in Guatemala and four in Honduras – recruiting 153 volunteers: 83 from Guatemala and 70 from Honduras.

These volunteers – with additional support and participation from teachers, community members, other NGO’s, and people from state entities such as the Ministry of Environment – carried out 80 clean-up campaigns along the beaches of the Gulf of Honduras. These dedicated individuals removed over 12 tonnes of plastic, 2 tonnes of rubber, 3.54 tonnes of foam and 560 Kg of cans. The most abundant items were 2.5cm plastic, mainly bottles, caps and disposable cutlery. As for objects smaller than 2.5 cm, the most abundant were pieces of foam and plastic.

In each clean up, the participants collected the debris in sacks, where they separated cans, plastic, foam and rubber, once collected they were moved to a collection center. Material that was able to be reused was sold to recyclers in the area, some material was used in the production of cement!

The project also carried out a variety of educational talks, developed by Fundación Mundo Azul, in collaboration with local conservation organisation, Cuerpos de Conservación de Omoa. The talks covered a variety of aspects of plastic pollution, including environmental issues, waste management and conservation of natural resources, with an aim to improve awareness in the communities of the negative impacts of the use of plastic and its harmful effects on the marine environment. Example topics included: the 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), including that by recycling some materials such as plastic, cardboard, newspaper or cans people can generate additional income; information on what marine debris is, what it is composed of (plastic, glass, can and rubber), and how much time it takes for it to degrade in the oceans. The data that caused the greatest impact on the participants was the fact that foam never degrades, this was compounded by the fact that that this material is the most abundant on the beaches of the Gulf of Honduras!

Following this, volunteers from each community replicated these talks, passing on their knowledge to other teachers and classmates in their school. They have become the voice of conservation in their communities which will continue to protect their marine ecosystems in future years to come.

Environmental fairs were also held in each community to further raise awareness among students, parents and members of the communities about the negative impact of the use of plastic and the negative effect it has on our ecosystems.

For a fantastic short video of this project please click here!

Image: The scale of the problem