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Activists: Most trash picked from Mexican beach is from elsewhere

March 2, 2012 |  3:36 pm

Mexico's Caribbean coast


REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- A recent cleanup of trash on a scenic Mexican beach seemed to confirm what many there thought: Most of the plastic garbage comes from outside Mexico.

The Times recently highlighted the plastics pollution that plagues Mahahual, a beach town that sits on a largely undeveloped and ecologically rich stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Debris is washed up by currents that carry floating garbage like a giant conveyor, reflecting a much bigger phenomenon of ocean-borne plastic trash around the world.

The Feb. 25 cleanup, a one-day event organized by a green-marketing firm in Mexico City called Sustenta.com, collected more than 6 tons of trash and allowed participants to examine pieces for signs of where it came from.

The answer: all over. Cuba. Venezuela. Honduras. China. Brazil.The  United States. Haiti. Jamaica. The Netherlands. Pretty much everywhere but Mexico.

H. Bruce Rinker, an ecologist based in Maine who serves as science advisor to Sustenta.com, said he examined perhaps hundreds of pieces during the cleanup effort.

"I found only two pieces clearly with ‘Product of Mexico’ labels," he said in an email.

Activists said the tallying bolstered the view that the picturesque stretch of Mexico is victim of a trash problem created elsewhere.

The cleanup, the third in Mahahual in recent years, drew 350 volunteers, mostly local residents. Participants collected more than 1,500 bags of trash.

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--Ken Ellingwood

Photo: Scenic beaches along little-developed stretches of Mexico's Caribbean coast are plagued by plastic trash carried there by currents, often from great distances. Photo by Ken Ellingwood / Los Angeles Times

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