Plastic pollution has a human impact

El Quetzalito and the Rio Motagua

The Guatemala City garbage dump

On its journey to the sea, the Motagua River passes Guatemala City, a busy metropolis that’s home to about 3 million people. During the rainy season, sewage, industrial runoff, and trash from the city’s basurero, or garbage dump, gets washed into deep ravines that carry noxious and heavily polluted floodwaters to the river. In 2016, three people were killed and more were injured in a trash slide at the basurero.

Inland communities’ unofficial dumps

More than 90 municipalities sit along the Rio Motagua, which runs 300 miles across the country to the Caribbean Sea. Without waste management infrastructure, trash from these communities is either burned, which releases toxic fumes, or stored in unofficial dump sites that get washed into the river during the rainy season.

El Quetzalito sits at the river mouth

At the end of the Rio Motagua sits the town of El Quetzalito, a remote community of about 78 working class families who mostly made their living as fishermen and cattle, rice, and corn farmers. However, over the last 20 or so years, their nets have collected more plastic than fish. Plastic pollution also impacts their mangrove forests and a small coral reef that sits in the river mouth, which are both vital nurseries for many of the seafood species they rely on. Until upstream solutions for plastic pollution can be developed and implemented, the residents of El Quetzalito are committed to making their town the last stop for river plastic.

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4ocean is operating in El Quetzalito, too!

Daily cleanup missions

While our main operational base is located in Puerto Barrios, we’ve established a satellite location in El Quetzalito and hired 25 individuals from the community to recover trash from the river and along the nearby coastline seven days a week.

Installing boom systems

Our crews continue to scout and test 4ocean boom systems in the Rio Motagua, its tributaries, and local canals to determine what configuration will have the biggest impact on the flow of trash from the river into the ocean. This process does take some time, so we’ll keep you updated on our progress.

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The full story of 4ocean Guatemala

Discover the causes of plastic pollution in Guatemala

It’s estimated that 80% of ocean plastic comes from “mismanaged waste” on land. In Guatemala, there’s just one official basurero, or garbage dump, for the entire country. It’s in the nation’s capital of Guatemala City and it’s currently the biggest landfill in all of Central America. Over a third of the country’s total trash ends up in the Guatemala City basurero each year, but not all of it stays there.

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See how 4ocean is addressing plastic pollution in Guatemala

Preventing plastic from entering the ocean is the crux of our strategy in Guatemala. Instead of sending vessels into the open ocean, our crews will focus on recovering plastic from the Rio Motagua and high-impact areas along the eastern coastline where massive amounts of trash accumulates.

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Tour our main operational facility in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala

It takes a lot of time and resources to open a new cleanup division. Thanks to the clean ocean movement, we purchased an empty tract of land in Guatemala where we could build an entire operational base from the ground up. Located in the thriving port city of Puerto Barrios, our newest base now features a new sea wall, boat ramp, weighing station, sorting facility, bailers, storage yards, and even a shipping container that’s been converted into a solar-powered office!

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Explore the tools we use to recover ocean plastic in Guatemala

Let us show you all of the tools and equipment we’ve invested in to keep our crews safe and maximize our impact in Guatemala. Remember that this is what you make possible every time you shop 4ocean and pull a pound of trash.

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Meet the people behind 4ocean Guatemala

Opening a new cleanup division really takes a village. It’s a slow and laborious process even at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a global pandemic. But thanks to the clean ocean movement and the herculean efforts of the crew members you’re about to meet, 4ocean Guatemala is not only open, but thriving.

Meet the Team

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