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Where Does Your Trash Go?

I recently participated in a monthly beach clean up at Playa Azul, Luquillo, organized by local yogi Jennifer Forshee and other members of the community (the next one is on Saturday, November 14--- check out her page for more info). She said she found so much trash during her morning walks along the beach that she's developed a daily practice of bringing a bag with her and picking up whatever she sees. Most of what I picked up was plastic and other trash related to drinks: caps, straws, cups, cans, bottles, and those awful Capri Sun pouches.

Photo: Luquillo, Puerto Rico.

Here are some things I've learned that I would like to share:

  1. We should avoid using plastics (even if you recycle!) and use alternatives like reusable water bottles and canvas shopping bags at all times. Only approximately 10% of the world's plastic gets recycled so you're not really doing much by separating out trash from your plastics. I recently learned about how plastic waste can be used to make asphalt. This would solve two problems at once because this plastic compound is more durable and would require less replacement of roads. Imagine taking plastic waste in our local communities and turning it into better roads for the island... ✨💜🌻

  2. When landfills are at excess capacity, the trash gets incinerated and inhaled by the people in the community and puts them at risk of health complications such as respiratory problems or even cancer. These emissions also harm our environment.

  3. If you go to the beach, take all your trash home. Even if there are trash bins at the beach, just take your stuff with you. These trash bins overflow by the end of a weekend, and loose trash flies around until it reaches the oceans and poisons our wildlife.

  4. Every molecule of plastic that's ever been produced is still here on this earth. Plastics can get so tiny that they infiltrate our environment, like the foods we eat, and eventually end up in our system. For example, if you eat fish nowadays, you might be eating bits of plastic.

  5. If your waste is organic (ex: uncooked vegetable scraps, egg shells, or even organic paper), the best thing to do is to compost it. Organic waste will decompose and become food for soil. (This does not mean you can just throw a banana peel into El Yunque Rainforest during your hike! Doing this can disrupt the ecosystem.) Check out TAIS as an option for composting in PR. I've been following them for a while and am really interested in what they're doing. You can buy their composting kit and they will pick it up and turn it into nutrient-rich soil that is used by local farmers.

  6. Consider cutting down on your animal product consumption. Even the United Nations says so. Consuming animal products causes deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, supports animal cruelty, and has many negative effects on your health.

  7. Be more conscious about the clothes you're buying. Fast fashion production (clothes from Zara, Forever 21, etc.) makes up 10% of the world's carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. What's more, 85% of all textiles are dumped each year. And washing some types of clothes sends thousands of bits of plastic into the ocean. If possible, buy from secondhand shops or if that weirds you out, try doing a clothing swap among your group of friends - that way you can breathe life into your closet without having to contribute to the global waste problem. Plus it's a fun idea for a friend gathering!

Let's think about where our trash goes and be more conscious about our consumption, because it still does affect you even though it's out of your sight. Try to reduce your waste altogether rather than recycling.

✨This post is dedicated in memory of Juan Carlos Bibiloni Lugo, an innovator, and the one who told me about the idea to make better roads for Puerto Rico with recycled plastic.

Rest in peace, Juan Carlos.✨

P.s., The next Luquillo beach cleanup will be on Saturday, November 14 at Playa Azul. Yogi Jennifer Forshee will be leading a free community yoga class at 8:30am followed by beach cleanup at 10am. You can check out her page for more info.

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