To say that Guaymas and San Carlos have a little trash problem would, sadly, be a gross understatement. For the majority of the population it is not for lack of trying. Each morning, I see shopkeepers take to the streets and sidewalks in front of their stores, sweeping up debris and gathering trash that has accumulated overnight. Hoses are turned on and drives and walkways are sprayed down in an attempt to keep blowing dust in its proper place. Garbage is bagged and set in or near cans, barrels, and dumpsters.
Unfortunately, those cans are not always emptied in a timely fashion. As I understand it, a former mayor decided that once he took office, garbage collection would be contracted out to a private firm. City trucks were repurposed or sold. And when a new mayor was elected, and money for private trash collection ran out, Guaymas experienced a bit of a crisis. Realizing they were not going to be paid, Promotora Ambiental S.A. (PASA) stopped collecting trash. While citizens continued to responsibly clean up their messes, the trash piled up and became an easy target for animals and nature.
Citizens persisted and found creative ways to deal with the problem. Bags were tied to fences, out of the reach of animals, and garbage was delivered to the front steps of the municipal government building. Neighbors worked together to keep their blocks as neat as possible, rebagging daily after dogs, cats, and strong winds did their best to undermine their efforts. Yes, there is a landfill; however, dumping can only be paid for with a credit card. Many families in our area do not have a car or truck for hauling, never mind a credit card.
Slowly, the mayor is rebuilding the city’s fleet of garbage trucks. In the meantime, winds continue to blow and animals continue to forage. And the PASA strike certainly does not explain the piles of beer cans left on the beach each weekend or the snack wrappers and plastic Coke bottles floating in the Sea of Cortez. It does not answer for the groups who leave their cookout messes on the patios of their vacation rentals. It does not excuse the carload of kids, who drop an Oxxo bag full of trash out the window of their car, as they speed down the highway. Fortunately, there are concerned citizens attacking these areas too.
Clean Up San Carlos, a volunteer group of Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans, meet each week and pick up trash in a designated area: on the beach, the main thoroughfare, or in the desert. Bandidos de Basura brings educational programs about littering, recycling, and responsibility into the local schools. Universities, high schools, middle and elementary students join Clean Up San Carlos or sponsor their own clean ups. Aqua y Más, an orphanage, participates in local beach cleans. There have even been international efforts between students in Arizona and Guaymas.
This past Saturday, BAE Systems, a global aerospace company located in the Rocafuerte Industrial Park in Guaymas, was proud to contribute to the efforts to keep our community clean as well. In a belated Earth Day celebration, our small but mighty group of employees, spouses, girlfriends, and children met at 8:00 in the morning. After the obligatory selfies, we donned our gloves and masks and set out to clean the highway in front of the park, or as much of it as we could before a) we ran out of bags b) we ran out of dumpster space c) the heat did us in or d) all of the above.
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Umm, I suppose that all depends on your definition. Little Alonso was thrilled when he found a golfball. I was more startled when I discovered the man sleeping in the culvert. It also seemed odd that I found so many Q-tips. Like is it really a thing to clean your ears while driving down the road? And let me add that plastic bags truly are the devil- -anywhere, but especially in the desert. They attach themselves to the spiky, sharp trees and plants. Trying to remove them makes an even bigger mess. (Shameless but necessary PSA: Please strongly consider toting your snacks, beer, soft drinks, and Q-tips in a canvas bag from here forward.)
And actually, the more we found, the more obvious it became that this was not necessarily litter. (As in “No, Amy. No one cleans his ears while driving down the road.”) It was trash that had been blown from trucks or garbage receptacles. And as gross as it was to have to touch some of it, even with gloves on, I was happy to see that not much of it was recent. Slowly but surely, the message of caring for the environment is spreading.
During our crawl down the main drag, our group was joined by five city employees and one random citizen, who just wanted to help. We were honked at a lot by people who were happy with our efforts. Of course, they could have been appreciating the view of 20+ people bent over along the road. In spite of the heat, the dust, and, yes, the trash, I loved working side by side with such a great group of people. I am a tad jealous that my husband gets to spend his days with them.
Change in behavior and attitude does not happen overnight. BAE Systems is just a small cog in the wheel of the community service and pride taking place in our communities daily. One chip bag, one bottle, one Q-tip, one new garbage truck at a time.