Quintana Roo and in general Mexico has a real problem with plastic. Everything is packed in plastic, in the markets, in souvenir shops or in supermarkets. We have to be aware that the plastic bags we use for our products will eventually end up somewhere in the oceans. The biggest excuse people give is “What should I do as a small person against this problem?”, but the main problem ist that we think often too small in this regard and unaware of what we can do with our consumption.
About 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. But today, in every square kilometer of the sea, hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic waste are floating. According to a study, about 75 percent of the up to 10 million tons of garbage that is flushed into the oceans every year is made of plastic. Even if there are currently no scientific studies analyzing the plastic problem specifically on the beaches of Quintana Roo. Mexico in general generates half a million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the sea. Mexico ranks as the 12th largest plastics consumer in the world, consuming over 5 million tons of plastic each year. The key growth driver for plastics in Mexico is packaging, specifically food and appliance packaging.
We have to be aware that the plastic bags we use for our products will eventually end up somewhere in the oceans. Plastic waste has a short and long-term impact on the environment, our environment. It pollutes our oceans, kills our ecosystems and takes centuries to decompose. If we carry on at the current pace there will be more plastic than fish, in terms of weight by 2050, according to a report by the World Economic Forum. Seabirds are tortured with painfully plastic pieces in their stomach, turtles hold plastic bags for jellyfish and fish mistake tiny plastic particles with plankton. Important to know, small plastic particles, called microplastics and environmentally harmful substances that are contained in the plastic, also enter the human food chain via the fish. Scientists have recently calculated that people who eat seafood or fish eat up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic each year.
In recent years, the effort in Mexico has increased significantly to clean the 10,000-kilometer-long beaches. Still according to the annual beach cleaning activities organized by volunteers or government agencies, plastics are the most common solid waste returning with ocean currents from different areas. It is not enough done against the pollution of the seas. There is new trash on the beach every day. But where does the trash come from? Well, we are all part of it, because we created the world of plastic without thinking about concequeces before.
A big problem is the inadequate drinking water supply. More than 1.5 million people living in Quintana Roo have no access to drinkable tap water. Poor water quality is one of the most disruptive environmental problems in the region. People depend on water in plastic bottles, which are distributed by multinational corporations. These corporations are making billions in sales with people in need of no access to clean drinking water. This results in that Mexico belongs to the main consumer of bottled water in the world. A plastic bottle takes 500 years in the sea to decompose. However, the plastic dissolves only in smaller, barely visible plastic particles. Another big problem are plastic bags that are still offered in every store. If you say “No plastic bag please!” The cashier of the supermarket will look at you in surprise. But why? It is a situation that I have experienced so many times in Cancun. I’m at the cash register, at the end of it the packers wait impatiently with the obligatory plastic bags. Bags that end up in the thousands of ditches, driveways, parks and, of course, the sea. Also i have experienced that there is not at every corner a trash can. Some people do not think about their garbage and just dump it somewhere where they can get rid of it. But what can you do best? Refuse nicely, but definitely, plastic bags and dispose of your garbage only in designated trash can.
One beach club in Playa reports throwing away one hundred thousand plastic cups a month! Imagine the amount of plastic that reaches our sea, drinking water, and the bellies of all living creatures. In Quintana Roo but also general in Mexico, there is a real problem with plastic. Everything is packed in plastic, in the markets, in souvenir shops or in supermarkets. Even in little food trucks or street food places you receive your food on plastic plates covered in plastic bags. Yes it’s faster and easier but bad for the environment and in a long-term eventually also for us people.
The Question is how can we deal with all this problems? Most experts agree that recycling remains an important way to reduce waste because it is better than just throwing plastic away. Still there are better ways to deal with the problem. The reduce of the amount and types of different plastic we use would be better, because we cannot recycle our way out of the plastic pollution wave because we are using too much plastic in the first place. Worldwide only 9% are recycled. Every piece of plastic ever produced, except it was burned, still exists on our planet today.
Therefore, it is necessary to take action. Everyone can make a contribution. The biggest excuse is to say “What should I do as a small person against this problem”. But that’s actually easy say no to plastic bags and carry fabric bags for shopping in the supermarket, use a metal bottle for the transport of drinking water. Take out packaging, straws, water bottles, household plastics and any other single use plastic. Choose cans over glass, they are 100% recycled here in Mexico. Use a Thermo mug instead of coffee-to-go. Organic garbage bags instead of plastic bags We are often too small in this regard and unaware of what we can do with our consumption. So it is up to us as humans to repeatedly point out grievances that meet us wherever. We all need to take action to minimize our overall consumption and use plastic options only when there are no better alternatives.