Clean up Peru
In Peru, garbage collection andor treatment is inefficient or non-existent throughout the country. People throw their garbage in front of their houses on the street. Municipalities do not collect trash or throw the collected garbage somewhere in the environment without any treatment or care. People are used to throwing their garbage whereever they go and everybody does it – the wealthy Limenian citizen throws his trash out of the window of his Mercedes and leaves the beer can on the beach as well as the lower class people throw their trash out of public transportation busses. Environmental consciousness is not a question of belonging to a certain social class. The entire issue is also not a problem of intelligence. Even well educated people can be quite ignorant at times.
Our way of dealing with garbage is a matter of ignorance and lacking awareness about the danger garbage poses to human and environmental health, as well as a lack of respect for nature. Clean-up activities, long-term, broad scale environmental and sanitary education, the improvement of waste treatment and recycling, as well as strategies to avoid garbage, are the answers needed on a personal, local, regional and national level.
Why do we need to clean up Peru?
Garbage stays in the environment for decades – especially in the Peruvian desert. Generally, it does not disappear until it is collected by someone. Therefore garbage accumulates in the environment. Many urban areas in Peru are covered with garbage. Wind transports garbage over land and currents transport garbage to the most isolated places on earth. Garbage can be found in great quantities on the marine floor, in the water and on the beaches.
For example, it is estimated that in each square mile of the worlds ocean, an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic garbage can be found floating in the water. Each day worldwide, 8 million pieces of trash are thrown into the ocean. About 70% of this garbage accumulates on the ocean floor, the rest floats in the sea or is washed ashore.
Animals ingest plastic garbage, because it looks similar to their natural food. Plastic bags floating in the water look like jellyfish, being the prey of marine turtles. Birds feed on little plastic pellets resembling small crabs or plankton organisms. They also feed their young with plastic. The ingested plastic blocks the intestines, animals feel full and stop eating and finally, they starve to death. There are reports of at least 162 marine species that suffer deaths from ingested waste particles. Annually around 100,000 marine mammals worldwide are supposed to die because of ingestion of plastic waste – 30,000 of them being sea lions. Worldwide, an estimated 700,000 to 1 million marine birds die because of waste ingestion. Birds use plastic garbage to build their nests. These garbage nests may retain rainwater and cause the death of the young.
Garbage causes wounds, pain and suffering!
Garbage on beaches and near the shoreline is a danger for beach tourists. Glass or corroded metal may cause serious wounds when stepping on them while swimming in the ocean.
Lost or discarded fishing nets drift for many years in the oceans continuing to catch fish and other marine life. Animals that become entangled in garbage will try to set themselves free and while doing so may suffer serious wounds, which consequently will become infected, causing death or the loss of extremities. But in general, the animals strangle themselves to death or drown.
Garbage is a threat to biodiversity!
The annual death of millions of marine and terrestrial animals because of their contact with human garbage is a additional threat to wildlife conservation.
Garbage releases toxic substances into the environment!
Peruvian fishermen for example are accustomed to throw all their trash over board, even highly toxic batteries, old oil filters (with oil inside) and the nearly empty motor oil bottles. All these toxics poison our environment. In just one week of an underwater clean-up organized by Mundo Azul in the port of Pucusana divers collected more than 400 oil filters and more than 3,500 batteries from the bottom of the sea.
Garbage dumps are a health hazard!
Garbage dumps are a breeding ground for insect and rat populations, which will transport infectious diseases. Garbage dumps are also feeding grounds for street dogs – another important carrier of diseases (The solution is not to kill the street dogs, but to clean up the waste dumps).
Garbage in the water causes great economic losses because of damaged nets and ship engines!
Fishing nets can wrap around propellers, anchors or drive shafts, plastic sheeting and plastic bags can clog cooling water intakes, and lost nets or lines can entangle vessels. In Shetland, 92 % of the fishermen reported the catch of garbage. 69 % of the fishermen have suffered contamination of their catch causing economical losses of up to 2000 pounds in each case. It is estimated that repairs of ship propellers and engines caused by trash may be between £ 6,000 and £ 30,000 anually. Total annual economic damage for the Shetland fishing fleet is estimated between £ 492,000 and £ 2,460,000. 58 % of the fishermen of Newport, Oregon, indicated problems with garbage causing average annual losses of US$ 2,725 per boat. Japanese ship insurance companies pay an average of US$ 50 million for ship repairs caused by trash floating in the ocean. In 1998, the British Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) assisted more than 200 ships, whose propellers had become entangled. The annual cost of these rescue operations was around £ 900,000.
Garbage on beaches causes economic losses in tourism destinations. Regular beach clean-ups are needed in many coastal communities and they are expensive. Total clean-up costs of 64 British fishing communities are around £ 2.9 million. Weekly clean-ups of a six kilometer long beach in the community of Orange County in California produces a cost of $US 350,000 per year.
Report on 2003 Pucusana underwater clean-up and beach clean-up
Report on 2005 Pucusana terrestrial clean-up
How to organize a clean-up event
Special guidelines for underwater clean-ups
“Stop the Poison” Campaign
Download: Report: “Human Rights and Contamination” (PDF – english)