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.
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.
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.