The ocean plastic crisis in Guatemala


How Guatemala’s trash enters the ocean

Countries with developing economies like Guatemala are generally viewed as the main source of ocean plastic pollution. While developed nations like the U.S. consume and dispose of plastic at a higher rate, still-developing nations lack the same waste management infrastructure which is why more of their trash ends up in the ocean.

The Motagua River

The Rio Motagua is the longest river in Guatemala. It spans two-thirds of the Central American isthmus and runs about 300 miles from the remote central highlands of Guatemala to the Gulf of Honduras in the Caribbean.

Guatemala City

On its journey to the sea, the Rio Motagua 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 gets washed into deep ravines that carry noxious and heavily polluted floodwaters to the river.

Inland communities

With little to no waste management infrastructure to keep trash hidden and contained, Guatemala’s inland communities create unofficial landfills and dumping grounds to manage their waste as best they can. Heavy winds and rain sweep refuse into nearby waterways and tributaries that feed the Rio Motagua.

Out of the river and into the ocean

Trash that enters the Motagua pours out of the river into the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea. Currents in the gulf deposit trash back on Guatemala’s coast or transport it to shorelines in neighboring countries like Belize and Honduras. What doesn’t accumulate on the coastlines goes on to pollute the world’s second largest coral reef system, the Mesoamerican Reef, which has supported rich biodiversity and fishing communities from Cancún to Nicaragua for centuries.


The full story of 4ocean Guatemala

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.

Explore Our Strategy

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!

Take the Tour

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.

Explore Equipment

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

Plastic pollution has a human impact

See what it’s like to live in an area that’s heavily impacted by plastic pollution. Join us as we travel hundreds of miles along the Rio Motagua from the Guatemala City basurero, or garbage dump, to El Quetzalito, a small village at the river mouth that’s working hard to become the last stop for river plastic and see how plastic pollution impacts quality of life not just for the residents of El Quetzalito, but communities around the world.

Visit El Quetzalito

How we recycle our recovered ocean plastic in Guatemala

After our recovered ocean plastic is weighed, documented, and sorted at our Puerto Barrios facility, it’s transported to Tecnologia Textil Avanzada, or Advanced Textile Technology (TTA), a recycling facility located just outside of Guatemala City. This is where our recovered ocean plastic is transformed into the 4ocean Plastic™ pellets we’ll use to make new products that raise awareness about plastic pollution and fund our global ocean cleanup operation.


The work we do is only possible because of you

From operational expenses to awareness and advocacy initiatives, from research on new clean ocean technologies to awareness and educational programs, all of our profits are reinvested back into our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis. Here are just a few ways you can show your support!