October 23, 2018

Guatemala to Use Bio-fences to Reduce Plastic Pollution

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Catherine Benson Wahlén

12 October 2018: Guatemala announced a commitment to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans as part of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP, or UN Environment) Clean Seas Campaign. Guatemala will stop plastics from entering the ocean by installing bio-fences in its rivers to recover plastic debris.

Guatemala’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Alfonso Alonzo announced his government’s commitment at the 21st Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 9-12 October 2018. He said Guatemala is “actively fighting plastic pollution through innovation and community participation” as part of an effort to preserve healthy oceans for future generations.

Guatemala pledged to increase waste collection in its rivers through deploying artisanal bio-fences that are made from recovered plastic debris and installed in rivers across the country to trap and collect plastic waste. The fence nets catch the plastic waste, making it easier for communities to recycle or dispose of it properly. The El Quetzalito community, located near the mouth of Guatemala’s Motagua river, which flows to the Caribbean Sea, was a pioneer in using bio-fences. Through the deployment of bio-fences, community residents have generated additional income through recycling and upcycling.

LAC countries’ bold legislative initiatives and innovative technologies help curb the use of single-use plastics.

Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Panama also have adopted the Guatemalan bio-fences to capture plastic pollution in their rivers before it reaches the region’s oceans and seas. Although the bio-fences are helping the region respond to pollution, countries have also stressed the importance of tackling plastic pollution at the source, by increasing wastewater treatment facilities and reducing individual consumption of plastics through awareness raising and education.

More than 50 countries around the world have signed up to the Clean Seas campaign. Guatemala’s announcement brings the number of countries in the LAC region participating in the campaign to 16. UN Environment Regional Director for LAC, Leo Heileman, praised the region’s countries for promoting “bold legislative initiatives and innovative technologies to curb the use of single-use plastics.”

According to UNEP’s ‘Waste Management Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean,’ every day 17,000 tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the environment or informal dumps in the region. [UNEP Press Release]