Workers collect garbage from a beach in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, in July 2018. Photo: Erika Santelices /Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

By Palko Karasz
23 July 2018

(The New York Times) – Come for the beaches, say tourism ads for the Dominican Republic.

But it has some beaches you might want to skip right now.

The Caribbean nation is known for sapphire seas and ivory beaches, but it is grappling with waves of garbage washing up on its shores, a vivid reminder of the presence of thousands of tons of plastic in the world’s oceans.

Those piles, most notably the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” are usually far from human settlements, to say nothing of resort destinations.

But instead of visitors relaxing on Montesinos Beach in the capital, Santo Domingo, there has been an altogether different scene, one unlikely to wind up on a postcard: Hundreds of city workers and volunteers who have been waging an uphill battle against wave after wave of sludgy garbage.

Images have shown teams using pikes, shovels, and excavators to lift the garbage, only to be met with new waves carrying even more.

Sixty tons of garbage have been collected on the beach since last week, Reuters reported. The haul included plastic bottles and Styrofoam takeout boxes, Parley for the Oceans, an organization that works to reduce plastic waste in the world’s oceans, said in a statement.

The images are shocking, but perhaps not for people who live in the Dominican Republic. “It happens pretty much all the time if there is a strong rainfall or a storm,” said Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, in a telephone interview.

The phenomenon is not confined to the Dominican Republic, he said, and can be seen in many developing nations with a coastline. “Everybody uses the rivers and the beaches as dump sites.” [more]

Wave After Wave of Garbage Hits the Dominican Republic


17 July 2018 (Parley) – Late last year, images of trash-covered beaches in Bali shocked the world and prompted the government to declare a 'garbage emergency'. Now, video taken by Parley in the Dominican Republic shows an equally apocalyptic scene – wave after wave of plastic debris rolling in at Montesinos Beach in the capital, Santo Domingo.

As the dense garbage carpet ripples in the surf, individual items ranging from plastic bottles to styrofoam takeout boxes can be seen poking out – symptoms of our global disposable plastic culture and one island's struggle to stem the tide.

Parley is currently on site working with the navy, the army, public workers and the municipal government. Over 500 public workers were mobilized for the operation, and after three days of work teams had collected 30 tons of plastic.
So far, six tons of that has been recovered by Parley to be transformed into Ocean Plastic® – a premium material used to create products that act as symbols of change and fund the battle against marine plastic pollution.

“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.”

Machinery and trucks have been drafted in to deal with the massive tide of plastic, much of which will have to be sent to landfill because it is mixed and contaminated. The mayor of Santo Domingo is giving us the city's full support and hopes to divert as much usable plastic as possible to Parley.

Beyond assisting with clean-up efforts, Parley is working to implement the AIR strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) island-wide. Working with local leaders and government, the plan focuses on education and communication, identifying the root of the problem, and working with policy-makers improve the island's waste and recycling infrastructure.

The huge clean-up operation is continuing this week and a public event is planned for Saturday – get in touch with us via the link below if you are on the island and would like to get involved.

Garbage emergencies like this are urgent reminders that we need to act fast. Unless urgent action is taken, scenes like this will become more common all over the world in the coming years as we reach a plastic tipping point. Wherever you are, be part of the solution and take the Parley AIR pledge to Avoid, Intercept and Redesign plastic today.

State of Emergency: Santo Domingo

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