Fancy a stroll down one of the Dominican Republic's famed white sand beaches? You might want to bring a few garbage bags.
For much of July, the scene along Montesinos Beach in the capital, Santo Domingo, has been one not of lounging and swimming, but of frantic collection and disposal of endless waves of garbage. According to Parley for the Oceans, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce trash in the world's oceans, an astounding 1,000 tons of debris has been removed from the impacted area around Santo Domingo since July 13.
As shown in the video below, the end game to what's being called "the world's latest garbage emergency" is currently unknown. The more plastic waste that's carried away, the more the tide appears to bring right back in.
"Seeing this firsthand is absolutely shocking, but what’s worse is that this is not news in Santo Domingo," explains Parley’s Carmen Danae Chamorro from the scene. “This situation happens every time it rains heavily, that’s why it’s important to shine a light on what has been ignored."
The catalyst behind the appearance of seemingly endless waves of trash in Santo Domingo was the remnants of Hurricane Beryl, which swept over the city on July 10 and dropped nearly 10 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. The Rio Ozama and its tributaries, bordered by slums and heavily polluted, became engorged and flushed its trash into the ocean.
As one resident explained on Facebook, tackling the trash plaguing the coastlines does very little to prevent future waves of garbage from sweeping ashore.
"It is not an issue of cleaning this area or banning plastic only," Andrea Draiby wrote. "It is an issue of disorganized urbanization, lack of sanitational infrastructure and adequate dump sites, the cycle of poverty, corruption, lack of recycling, narco-based economies that generate more waste, lack of recycling projects, lack of enforcement of laws, lack of land use plans ...poverty settlements set up right next to the river, etc. To eliminate this you have to tackle all this at its source and also would have to relocate thousands and thousands of people that live in dysfunctional and poverty stricken areas along the rivers...it is all they have."
According to Parley, much of the plastic that has so far been collected has been sent to landfills due to both mixing and contamination. Nonetheless, the group has managed to recover more than six tons to be recycled into new materials under its Ocean Plastic program.
While Parley plans to maintain a presence on the beaches and continue with cleanup efforts, it admits that the current problem is far from over.
"Despite these efforts, more plastic arrives with the tides each day," the group said.