21. Playa Ventanas beach clean-up
YOU CAN’T ESCAPE TRASH
While the above heading can be applied to many areas of life, I mean it in the most literal: garbage is everywhere. Middle of the ocean, deserted arctic islands, highest mountain peaks and the hottest of deserts show signs that we like to make stuff and we like to throw stuff away. So it’s no surprise that our beautiful beaches are not immune – especially the more popular ones, and especially after the Semana Santa long weekend!
While scrolling the Ojochal Lifestyle facebook page I came upon a post advertising a volunteer beach clean-up of Playa Ventanas on April 12, 2023, from 8.00 am to 10.00 am – a perfect time window before it gets too hot. I decided join and use the opportunity to help spread the message by writing and sharing a blog. If you are keen to help, keep an eye out on the two different types of posts:
I arrived a bit early to get in a quick swim then joined the MCEC (Marine Conservation and Education Centre) staff for a chat about what they do and how the cleanup will go. MCEC does A LOT of things around ocean conservation and education, one of them being the rolling clean-ups of the local beaches such as Ventanas, Hermosa and Tortuga, which they operate in collaboration with ADI of Ojochal and Reserva Playa Tortuga. People were slowly trickling in as I grabbed my bucket and started to scour the sand for trash (you are asked to bring reusable bags, or better, a plastic bucket, reusable gloves, sunscreen and bug repellent).
The beach was especially messy – the Semana Santa has just concluded and those who visited Ventanas during that week were met with a full carpark (even at 8.00 am), massive crowds and even people camping out for days all over the beach area. After the busiest week of the year, it is no wonder the bucket got a lot of action!
Plastic was everywhere: bottles and caps, straws, single use utensils, bags, plates, and plastic packaging wrap… Also quite a few cigarette butts, plenty of sandals and shoes, beer bottles and metal caps, food packaging and aluminium cans. One couple came with a machete and they enthusiastically focused solely on liberating the miles of string that remained attached to the coconut and almond trees – used to hold up the tarps or dry clothing, the string was simply abandoned as the visitors headed home.
I spent the time cruising up and down the beach, going as far as the headland on the south end. Rubbish seemed to be concentrated in specific ‘party areas’ – in some instances the visitors made the effort of placing the rubbish into plastic bags or big piles. Some rubbish was burned with a few fires still smoldering, rivers of molten and re-solidified plastic surrounding the smoky pits.
Once the bucked it full, the contents were dumped onto a large tarp. The MCEC staff were busy sorting the garbage while the public volunteers were collecting the trash. After about an hour, everyone was asked to stop collecting the garbage and to help with the sorting.
Once the garbage was sorted, the individual items were meticulously counted so that the data could be added to a running database which tracks the refuse. Some items are sent off to the recyclers while others, like the bottle caps and string, are given to local schools for the children to use in their arts and crafts. Other types of garbage need to be trashed, this time in a landfill not our ocean. In total, 28.5 kilos of rubbish was collected and sorted in these two short hours.
I was surprised to see the amount of rubbish that was collected and the variety of the refuse – and don’t want to imagine how unkept and even dangerous (due to the glass and sharp metal) Playa Ventanas, and other local beaches, would be without the regular clean-ups organized and operated by the MCEC and their partners.
I would encourage everyone to help out with the beach cleanup – get some sun, fresh air, throw in a swim, and especially let your kids pitch in!