A dead tree adorned with plastic bottles is getting attention at Bacocho Beach, which was the intention from the start.
The curious sight has caught the attention of many visitors at the entrance to the beach, where it has become a new photo opportunity. Although it appeared over a month ago, many people still don’t know its exact meaning.
Jesús Burón Silva, who works for the Clean Beaches Committee of the municipality San Pedro Mixtepec, explained its origins. “The tree was the idea of the director of the federal zone [the beachfront that is managed by the federal government]. It was done on World Environment Day to raise awareness about plastic pollution.”
Bacocho is a “playa certificado” which means that it is certified as being a clean beach and a conservation area of importance. However, the area that is certified is just 500 meters of the entire stretch most people know as Bacocho. Technically, it begins in front of Club de Playa Cocos and extends to just beyond the Vivemar turtle release area.
While Vivemar is a non-profit organization mostly known for its turtle conservation efforts, its mission is to conserve flora and fauna within 27 kilometers of the coast. Its president describes Puerto Escondido’s plastic problem as urgent and one that more people need to be aware of.
“Everyone is responsible. We need to use less plastic and not leave trash on the beach,” said Hugolino Ibañez López in an interview.
Bacocho is one of the most visited beaches in the area and possibly the cleanest because of the efforts of those who work there in order to keep it clean.
The Clean Beaches Committee’s Burón has a vital role. He is in charge of keeping the federal zone clean, which extends to the parking area as well. “I come at about 6:30 am to clean the beach of cigarette butts, plastic, aluminum . . . . Each day I work on a different sector of the area.” And while Sunday is technically his day off, sometimes he’ll even go then to make sure the bins aren’t overflowing with trash.
However, his work is much more than just cleaning up the beach. Each day, Silva does an inventory of every piece of trash that is collected as he separates them into their proper bins to await pickup. That information gets sent to the local office, and then later to another office in Mexico City which is in charge of processing the information from certified beaches.
While the “plastic bottle tree” is a symbol of the importance of keeping the beaches clean, action is vital to truly make an impact. Both Vivemar and the Clean Beaches Committee organize cleanups regularly, and not just at Bacocho.
Vivemar’s Ibañez says, “Each month we choose the dirtiest beach within our 27 km of beaches. We go with volunteers to clean it up.” He notes the large amounts of plastic that they routinely collect.
The Clean Beaches Committee coordinates with local businesses in order to get more people involved and recruit more help. A combination of government workers, like Silva, and the businesses’ employees do the cleanups. Just over the past couple of days, they did a cleanup in Playa Manzanillo.
Burón also said they recently cleaned part of Playa Coral, another popular beach. “We cleaned up the whole area, all the grass. It was full of so many plastic bottles and trash.”
He has had his job for three years and he’s seen a drastic change within that time. “There’s so much more plastic. The containers we have are no longer enough.” In fact, he noted that there was recently a meeting about getting larger bins as well as reconstructing the lifeguard tower, which is in need of some attention as well.
Of course, it all comes down to funds. So while the plan to improve these aspects of the area is in motion, it can’t get the green light until it’s approved and the funds are allocated.
While the dead tree, with its plastic bottles jingling in the wind, serves as a reminder of the urgent plastic pollution issue now, it won’t be there forever.
“It will probably just be up for a month longer,” Burón said.
But with the highway to Oaxaca soon to be fully functioning, and an airport expansion project in progress, more efforts will likely be needed in order to keep “paradise” clean as more and more visitors arrive.
El Sol de Puerto