Blog: Punta San Juan (Peru)

Plastics Pause

Plastic Free July

Did you know this month is International Plastic Free July? Grab and go and single use items have become common products to use during the hustle and bustle of daily life. Beauty scrubs may contain microscopic plastic beads, straws come with every drink, and lots of us get our water from a plastic bottle. While the products aren’t intended to be used forever, they end up spending a lifetime in the ocean, beaches, or landfills. Each year over 18,000 pounds of new plastic ends up polluting our planet. Here at the Punta San Juan Program every month is Plastics Free July. Dedicated volunteers and staff help remove plastic debris from the reserve and ocean and take steps to cut down on further pollution. Protecting the marine habitat and life in the Punta San Juan Reserve can’t be done without plastic clean-up efforts and you. 

Beach clean-ups are a regular occurrence at the reserve. We will stop and pick up any trash we see that washes ashore, but where do the pieces we don’t remove go?  Well, if it is Styrofoam, odds are that it made its way into a cave or is till floating in the ocean where animals may confuse it with food items. Cups, plates, and packaging follow the tide and get pushed and may “strand” in caves. We can actually see how high the tide gets in the area by looking at where the foam rests on land.  In January, staff, volunteers, and interns grabbed bags, cleaned the shoreline outside the reserve, and emptied the foam cave where the local communities use of Styrofoam had accumulated. As the cave fills back up, we will be there to take it away.

Cleaning on dry land is easy. Cleaning under the water is a little harder, but not too hard for our dedicated community.  We partnered with the local fishers to host workshops about ocean debris. Believe it or not, the highlight of the workshops is the cleaning of the ocean. Community members and fishers join together with snorkels, wetsuits, and garbage bags to swim the ocean floor picking up any debris that has settled below the surface of the water. These workshops and cleaning events are so popular we have added additional sessions throughout the year.

Cleaning the ocean and beach is hard work.  You can cut down on our cleaning time by using products that are sustainable and by making small changes to our habits. The Punta San Juan Program gives its volunteers, staff, and community members reusable, sustainable products like cups and mugs made to replace their single use disposable items. Plastic bags are generally a single use item, too. Cutting back on plastic bag use and waste is an issue in Peru just like the United States. Fresh baked bread is a staple in the Peruvian diet and is purchased daily. One way our program works to cut back on bag use is by offering reusable, cloth bags at local bakeries.  Bakeries were given cloth bags to give away to shoppers.  Each time a person returns to the bakery with their cloth bag, a preferred customer card was stamped. For every five stamps received, the customer would receive the equivalent of $1.00 in free bread. With each piece of bread being around $.30, the savings quickly add up.  We hope the incentive for sustainable behavior helps people to remember their reusable bag.

Cutting down on the use of plastics is something we can all do to help our local environment and the Punta San Juan Reserve.  With some elbow grease and time, we can limit the damage plastic pollution has on our planet and its residents.  These are just a few of the ways we at Punta San Juan cut down on plastics.  You can check out our website or for more ways you can limit plastic pollution.

Posted: 7/18/2017 4:57:41 PM by Steve Pine

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Punta San Juan

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