Bahia de Banderas Waterkeeper Takes an Innovative Approach to Litter and Poverty - Waterkeeper

Bahia de Banderas Waterkeeper Takes an Innovative Approach to Litter and Poverty

By: Waterkeeper Alliance

Bahia de Banderas Waterkeeper - Trash 4 Tokens

Bahia de Banderas Waterkeeper, an affiliate of Waterkeeper Alliance based in Mexico, has introduced a Trash4Tokens program, which is a Preventative campaign, protecting our ocean encouraging community members to become more invested in their local ecosystems, while bringing health, value and pride to the community.

Trash4Tokens works with communities, schools, shopping centers, and residential estates to prevent recyclable waste and trash from entering the environment. Waste pickers and community schools collect recyclable waste from their community and deposit their bags of collected trash to a Trash4Tokens center. In exchange for each bag, they receive a token which can be spent on clothes, food and other household essentials. 

Trash4Tokens is simultaneously preventing thousands of tons of waste reaching the oceans, cleaning up communities and providing resources for those who need it. Each new Trash4Tokens center will be accompanied by educational support for the community about the importance of recycling and collecting waste. 

Every year worldwide, hundreds of millions of tons of plastic are produced, and each year, millions of plastic ends up in our oceans. The damage caused to the ocean ecology and wider environment has been well documented. Our goal is to stop this waste from entering the ocean. Many people within the communities that Trash4Tokens works with are living in poverty and unable to feed and clothe their families due to extremely high rates of unemployment. The recycling and waste collection services in these communities are also frequently lacking. 

The Trash4Tokens program addresses both these problems and more. 

The goal of Trash4Tokens is to reduce the amount of trash in rivers, stormwater systems, and oceans. We also hope it will help instill pride in the local environment, and create jobs and resources for people living in poverty. Additionally, it can educate youth to learn about the importance of recycling by not dumping, and ultimately, preventing thousands of tons of garbage from reaching the ocean or landfills.

In the first six months of the Trash4Tokens program, we have seen some very promising results. Over 5,300 bags of trash were collected by nearly 500 Trash4Tokens collectors, totaling almost 70,000 pounds of recyclable waste collected. In exchange, individuals who participated earned the equivalent of more than $2,600 worth of rebates on food and other items. 

Trash4Tokens adopts a ‘fairtrade’ model to the price we pay our waste pickers for their bag of recyclables. We pay more than the variable market rate in order to ensure a fairer wage. We believe this gives them the necessary incentive to collect the waste and bring it to our Collection Points. The cost to local Municipalities of collecting illegally dumped litter is 10 times higher than collecting sorted bagged waste. There is also significant cost saving in diverting waste that can be recycled from ending up in landfill sites. 

This is a preventative campaign and cannot continue to rely on beach and river cleanups as a long term solution. Prevention is always easier than a cure. We need all retailers, government, and manufactures to get on board and join us in helping to create the perfect circular economy that we so desperately need.

This program has the potential to help break the cycle of poverty, while keeping our ecosystem free of pollution. Learn more about how you can support this important work here