An Ugly 4th of July for Puerto Rico’s Coast

Walgreen's Styrofoam Cooler

Walgreen’s Styrofoam Cooler. If they only stopped selling them.

I have been living on the beach for almost a year now and something that I have seen happen day after day is how people litter our beaches.

The contamination happens in many ways with excessive noise which is a topic I will cover another day and on most occasions, people liter and leave behind whatever they brought to the beach (chairs, styrofoam coolers, broken umbrellas, food etc).

My Opinion on why it happens

I have seen a mix of reasons why this happens. Sadly, most people that come to enjoy the beach want to bring their home to the beach. They will bring loud stereo speakers, they will bring pots and pans, rations for a week on the beach (although they will be there for a day), Liquor bottles (which are supposedly not permitted), tents, chairs, sound amplifiers, car batteries (too power up the speakers), generators, and a list that can go on of things that are not necessarily the easiest things to carry.

When its time to pick up, they are tired and some of them too drunk to carry the crap they brought to the beach. So they decide they will only carry what is valuable to them.

What is Valuable to them?

They value things that make them stand out like loud speakers, the pots and pans, and chairs (although on most occasions they will leave plastic chairs behind too).

Many laws are broken

Most of those who decide to liter are not only breaking the law by littering, but they also break a series of laws. Looking over the litter, they have containers that are not allowed. The speakers that blast music go over the decibles allowed by law. They are taking illegal drugs on the beach and when they go back home,  many drive drunk.

Killing the Tourism Industry

It would be a big deal to forward this on to local politicians  who are worried about the local economy. We are killing one of the only industries that brings income into the island.  Not only is it hard for hotels to operate on the Island and they get taxed, they also have to deal with horrible reviews because of those people that don’t care. I have sat down on multiple occasions and tried to contact the new tourism administration and we have not gotten any responses.

We have a Littering Problem

A few weeks ago it was la Noche de San Juan and there were various clean ups of the beach which is a remediative action and they made it feel like we don’t have a huge problem of people littering the beach. Sadly we do and here are some pictures so you can see what was left behind by those celebrating a day of U.S. Independence on an island that is still a colony.

So how do we fix it?

Provide Enough Trash Cans

Provide Enough Trash Cans on the beach. This morning I walked and took a sample of where most of the people use the beach. In approximately .40 of a mile I counted 8 trash cans which you can see in the pictures below.

Isla Verde 4th of July

1 of 8 Trash Cans

3 of 8 Trash Cans

2 of 8 Trash Cans

3 of 8 Trash Cans

3 of 8 Trash Cans

4, 5,6,7 of 8 trash Cans

4, 5,6,7 of 8 trash Cans

8 of 8 Trash Cans Isla Verde

8 of 8 Trash Cans

Prohibit containers that can easily become trash

It might sound unfair to many, but containers that are brought to the beach should be reausable. The only thing that gets picked up by many are the aluminum cans because they are valuable. Discontinuing styrofoam coolers and a series of other very toxic items might at least eliminate 60% or more of the trash I see every day on the beach.

Isla Verde Beach trash

Glass supposedly not allowed on the beach.

Fine those that Litter

Observe groups of people and once someone leaves trash or drops trash,  you need to fine them immediately.

Make DUI Road Blocks

As I observed the people leaving yesterday, it was clear that they were intoxicated. The police should stop DUI drivers around the area which will make people think twice of drinking too much while at the beach. This also minimizes the risks of fights that break out and security issues like the ones we had yesterday and on the Noche de San Juan.

Call People Out

If you see someone littering call them out. I have done this on many occasions. Start with those that are close to you and let them know why dropping a cigarette butt is so detrimental to the enviroment. I don’t want anyone to get hurt so please use caution and judgement when approaching others to create awareness.

Out of the suggestions above, maybe the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and Departamento of Natural Resources, (who were vacationing yesterday) can seek ways to fix the root problem of littering.

Step up and provide the beach with more trash cans. Work on the holidays where there is major foot traffic on the beach to ensure that there aren’t people littering. Most importantly, protect the Island of Enchantment before it becomes the Island of Trash.

 

Isla Verde Beach trash Isla Verde Beach trash Isla Verde Beach trash Isla Verde Beach trash Isla Verde Beach trash IMG_8652 Trash Cans IMG_8655 Isla Verde Beach trash

 

 

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  • http://bellavidabyletty.com/ BellaVida

    Great points. I hope this issue gets seriously dealt with. I just hate seeing Puerto Rico in that condition.

  • Ricky

    Thank you for pointing out this problem that I noticed three years ago while visiting my dad in Camuy. At the time I commented to my family that tourism might increase if the whole island was kept clean not just the all-inclusive beaches. I witnessed people tossing garbage out of cars on the street.
    I’m sure bringing in more tourists to the entire island would improve the economy.
    Your points are all valid but you missed one which should include an all out media blitz to educate the public.
    Keep La Bonita Bandera clean!

    • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

      Ricky the media here like in many other places works for the higher interests. We are way past awareness we need to have consequences for those that continue to violate rules. And a way to make it easier for those that want to follow the law.

      The local media is too busy entertaining people not worried about the well being of those who watch or consume there crap.

  • DavidRMartinR

    Another suggestion that I did not seem to see: give trash a monetary value. Bottles, bags and cigarette filters should be worth money. Take deposits on these and have collection centers that refund the deposit. Bottles and bags: 5 to 10 cents per unit. Cigarette filter 1 center per used filter.

    Require school children and govt workers to spend a minimum period each day picking up trash. This should be the Island’s #1 priority.

    “Puerto Rico: The Economic Rescue Manual” (2013)

  • M O

    Thank you for this amazing article. I agree the government must see to its responsibility in many manners. Putting in more garbage cans is certainly one step. However, they should also ensure that before, during and after such holidays they must be ready with prep and cleaning crews to review the beaches. This is not brain surgery and the lackadaisical approach borders on obscene incompetence.

    I would be remiss in not also BLAMING my own PEOPLE. Forgive me for this attitude but I recall many beach outings when I was young, where my
    parents ALWAYS brought PLASTIC TRASH BAGS ensured that every bit of garbage that was created was taken away, REGARDLESS of whether there were trash receptacles. If a plastic wrapper from lunch sandwich or
    dessert blew away we were all forced to run after it and bring it back. My parents respected our land and noted it was our responsibility to ensure that we did our part independent of what anyone else does, including the government. That trash was put there by the people. They should have enough common sense to take it away. We each have a 100 percent responsibility for our actions. We are polluting ourselves and we need to stop it.

    • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

      Thanks for sharing your experience and commenting.

      If we had more people like your parents and mine this issue would not happen. Sadly many more don’t care of what happens after they leave trash on the beach.

      I have to put at fault the majority of people who trash the beach. I also have to blame those who see it happening and decide to do nothing about it.

      Even picking up is only a temporary solution unless you plan to sit at the beach all day. I think the easiest first step is providing trash cans and after that is done making sure authorities hit with heavy fines those who decide to litter.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

  • darkblue07

    That is bad, but, in USA happend the same thing on concert and other activities, so, is bad where ever happend.

  • China3838

    Thank you for this article. I have to place the onus on the Government and how they utilize their resources in the wrong manner.
    In California, they have miles and miles of beautiful coastal beaches. The beaches that are utilized frequently especially during holidays are patrolled by the local law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement officers engage in identifying those that come to the beach drunk, causing havoc, playing loud music, drinking out of glass containers and littering. I’ve yet to see any municipality law enforcement agency in Puerto Rico patrol our beaches. Here is where I place the onus on our local representatives!

    • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

      China3838,

      Its a pretty ridiculous situation here where the Deparment of Natural Resources targets business owners that do go throught the permit process.

      They come in as a paramilitary group to check on permits that where requested.

      However I hardly ever see them come in and fine those that don’t ask for permits, litter the beach, and do much harm to our coast.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • adopt a beach

    In National Parks they have a federal law called “carry in carry out” what you bring in you carry out and it is enforced. Perhaps a law like that needs to enacted in PR but the problem would be local enforcement. Last year I was in Camuy visiting family and was sadden by the way the beachd looked… people bringing their kitchen with them to sell food, an RV set up permanently in the beach parking lot using city electricity to operate a a food store.