Microplastic drowns the beaches of Mazatlán: in 2022 more than 20 tons were collected

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During 2022, more than 20 tons of garbage were collected in beach areas, where up to a thousand cigarette butts are collected per day.

Mazatlán, Sin.- At 4:40 in the morning the alarm sounds in the house of Wenceslao Narciso Cruz, a new day begins, he gets up, bathes, get dressed, drinks his coffee and goes to his workplace , because he has to start cleaning the beaches of Mazatlán at 6 in the morning.

From Punta Cerritos to Olas Altas he collects waste of all kinds: plastic, Styrofoam, glass, aluminum cans, food, cigarette butts, underwear, condoms, and on some occasions, some bills and coins have even been found.

The problem is serious, not only in the port, but throughout the world, since every second more than 200 kilos of plastic are thrown into the oceans; 70 percent goes to the seabed and 15 percent remains floating, according to data from the Spanish foundation Aquae.

In Mazatlán, according to data from the Beach Operator and Administrator, during 2022, 20 tons of garbage were collected on the beaches of Buenos Aires and up to a thousand cigarette butts are collected per day.

Cleaning and awareness

Don Wenceslao has been dedicated to cleaning activities for more than 10 years, first in the direction of municipal Public Services, then in Ecology and for three years in the Operator and Administrator of Beaches.

It is a very peculiar job that he does, because, although he and the 11 auxiliar personnel who work at the OAP strive to keep the 38.9 kilometers of beach clean, bathers arrive and in an instant everything is full of garbage again.

From very early, he travels the beaches with a sifter that was made by hand and that manages to collect from 500 to a thousand cigarette butts daily, in addition to a good amount of PET, Styrofoam, lids and plastic bags.

“I really like my job, I love it, I really enjoy what I do, I like to clean the beaches, there are many people who congratulate me on the work we do, and that is a great motivation, and gives you encouragement, but also It is true that there is no conscience, a lot of culture is lacking and the work and effort to keep them clean is not valued. Also, people don’t realize the damage that is being done to marine fauna and flora,” he says.

In these years he has seen eels entangled with fishing rods, turtles that are killed by ingesting plastic, even containers that have been buried for years have come out, already with shells that are thrown by the tidal waves.

“Our mission is also to raise awareness that people do not leave us the garbage and now with the new regulations of the Anti-Tobacco Law, which prohibits smoking on the beaches, it is expected that the number of cigarette butts will decrease.”

The 57-year-old supervisor, originally from Oaxaca, points out that the area where the most garbage is generated is on Del Mar Avenue, from Lola Beltrán to the Hacienda hotel.

“There are many people who get upset when we invite them to take their rubbish, not to leave it on the beach, some have tried to beat us up, others insult you and tell us that we should collect the rubbish, that’s what they pay us for, we have to use patience and tolerance”.

According to a study prepared by the International Maritime Organization, 5.25 million plastic particles float in the oceans, representing a total weight of 268,940 tons.

Floating garbage that originates both on land and in the sea causes health and environmental problems, since marine species can get trapped in containers or get entangled in nets and ropes, while microplastics from the cosmetics industry can enter the food chain by being consumed by fish and other organisms and are indigestible when swallowed.

Microplastics and cigarette butts

The director of Operadora y Administradora de Playa, Luis Fernando Ortiz Genis, indicates that collecting microplastic is more difficult -since a deeper sieve must be made- than ordinary garbage such as PET, glasses, Styrofoam, or bags.

In the world, only 9 percent of the microplastic that has been produced is recycled or finds an appropriate final destination, another 12 percent is incinerated, and the remaining 79 percent ends up in the environment.

So far this year, two conferences have already been held In addition to the deep cleaning efforts at Pinitos and Brujas beach, this has been added to awareness of the new regulations of the Anti-Tobacco Law that prohibits smoking on the beaches that came into force on January 15.

“In this sense, it is very sad to see that there are between 500 and a thousand cigarette butts that are collected daily from the beaches, since an average of 8 to 10 liters of salt water are what this cigarette residue can contaminate,” he says.

He reveals that the ecological damage is very strong, especially in marine species, which die from all the pollution.

“In addition, part of the plastics or microplastics are consumed by humans, not only by eating shellfish or fish, but also by personal hygiene items that contain microspheres of plastic, such as toothpaste, gel with glitter or scrubs.”

Once plastic objects reach the marine environment, they take several decades or hundreds of years to degrade. The degradation time depends on the type of plastic and the environmental conditions to which it is exposed (sunlight, oxygen, mechanical agents).

It is difficult to estimate how long it takes for plastic to degrade in the oceans, but it is much slower than on land.

Currently, some 700 species of marine organisms are affected by this type of pollution. Every year, more than a million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals die because of all the plastic that reaches the sea.

Tourism is the main activity that generates plastic pollution on the beaches of Mexico, especially during vacation periods where spaces are crowded and there is no adequate program to control the flow of people in those places.

During Holy Week 2022, more than 700,000 visitors arrived at the port, who at some point were in the beach area; the vast majority consumed drinks or food in plastic products, many of which were left on the sand or scattered in various parts of the Mazatlan bay. Lack of awareness increases the level of contamination.

When talking about his work, Wenceslao’s sight is lost in the Mazatlan bay, he knows that it is a titanic task that has to be done every day, fatigue takes over him, the sun exhausts him, but nothing stops him; Although there is still a lack of environmental awareness, he sets the example with his work, he knows that little by little it will be possible to have an ecological culture that does not put nature, human beings or marine species at risk.

Data

20 tons of garbage were collected on the beaches of Mazatlán during 2022.

500 cigarette butts are collected per day in Mazatlán.

10 liters of salt water are contaminated with a cigarette butt.

100,000 marine mammals die every year in the world because of plastics that reach the sea.

Time it takes to degrade

Fishing line: 600 years

Plastic bottle: 500 years

Plastic spoons: 400 years

Lighters: 100 years

Plastic cup 65-75 years

Cigarette butt: 1-5 years

Source: El Sol de Mazatlan