“Island of trash” washes up on Guanacaste beach

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Volunteers assist in the cleanup effort at Buena Vista Beach, after what locals described as an “island of trash” washed ashore, leaving a stretch of garbage 2 kilometers long. (Voz de Guanacaste)

By Arianna McKinney/Voz de Guanacaste with additional editing by Inside Costa Rica staff.

January 24th, 2014 – A trail of trash stretched out along more than two kilometers of Buena Vista Beach, between the communities of Esterones and Samara in Guanacaste, after what locals described as an “island of trash” washed ashore on Thursday, January 9th. The huge amount of garbage stunned the community, which continued cleanup efforts this week.

Elizabeth Jenkins, who lives near the beach in Esterones, said that her husband, Frank, was at the beach when the tide brought the trash in and was shocked.  Within half an hour, the trash stretched from the entrance of the beach in Esterones to beyond the sea turtle reserve, including everything from truck tires to Dos Pinos milk cartons, leading her to believe that it was trash from somewhere in Costa Rica. “It was an island of trash that had been floating in the ocean for years probably. There were shells stuck to items,” she said.

The community is used to trash washing up and to organizing beach cleanings, but this was too much for them to handle alone, so they called the municipality for help.

Juan Carlos Oviedo Quesada, coordinator of the maritime zone office for the canton of Nicoya, believes the garbage had been dumped into rivers. “People throw it into the river, it reaches the sea and the sea returns it,” he concluded.

Oviedo said that when he was called and told that there were two kilometers of trash, he immediately looked for support. He and a companion from the environmental department went to Buena Vista to inspect the situation and located a backhoe to help with the work. He noted that people were already arriving from the community to help. The cost of the backhoe and two dump trucks to transport the trash from Samara to Santa Cruz was approximately 1 million colones ($2000), he estimated.

Over a period of four days, about 150 large sacks of garbage were collected by volunteers from the community, the turtle camp and First Hand, a nonprofit organization that brings volunteers from Europe to work in the local communities. They worked diligently under the Guanacaste sun from Thursday to Sunday and moved the trash by pickup truck and cart from Esterones to a drop-off point in Samara. On Wednesday, January 15, trucks from the municipality came to collect the trash.

Jenkins expressed appreciation for the help from the municipality but said they still needed to collect money from neighbors and local hotels to pay for two pickup trucks, one with a cart attached, to make two trips to transport the trash from Esterones to Samara and to pay for 6 hours of use of the backhoe, since the municipality paid for 6 but they needed the backhoe for 12 hours.

Volunteers are still cleaning up trash from the beach, as of Thursday, January 23, assured Jenkins. “We have been struggling with the garbage here for years. We’ve been trying to educate the people to recycle,” she said. “It seems like a never-ending situation with the problem of the garbage here.”

Jenkins has been in contact with Channel 15 about the issue, and they plan to film a documentary about the community and municipal colaboration to clean up the trash later this month, she said.

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  • expatin paradise

    It is inspiring to see a community unite to take on such a problem, rather than shrugging it off as someone else’s problem or just clearing off enough space to enjoy their little part of the beach. This planet needs more such stewards..