U.S.-Mexico Partners Cut Borderlands Plastic and Marine Debris

The Takeaway: The Tijuana River Research Reserve provides technical assistance and training for the effort.

Coastal and marine pollution doesn’t respect national boundaries, so partners along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands teamed up to tackle the problem. Cities on either side of the border have banned the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and raised public awareness. Binational volunteers also removed 40,000-plus pounds of trash from the Tijuana River Valley. The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve played an important role, with support from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Training and technical assistance by the Tijuana River Research Reserve raised officials’ awareness of pollution in the Mexican city of Tijuana and the cross-border metro area of Tecate. Both cities prohibited single-use plastic bags in grocery stores. Many environmental organizations and volunteers also contributed.

  • 503 business employees were trained on the plastic bag ban
  • 12 businesses evaluated ways to cut down on single-use plastic bags
  • At 89 community events, 11,630 reusable bags were given away
  • Project happenings reached more than 22,000 people, appearing in 200-plus news spots and 1,000-plus social media updates

Nearly five years before these groundbreaking laws, the volunteers of the annual Tijuana River Action Month began to remove area marine debris. Led in the U.S. by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and assisted by the research reserve, the binational effort has made impressive gains:

  • The removal of 40,757 pounds of trash from the Tijuana River Valley, with the aid of 533 volunteers
  • Educational outreach to 2,400 people, including K-12 students, volunteers, and community members
  • Ongoing work with university researchers and students on strategies to reduce flooding and solid waste problems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Border 2020 U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program leads pollution-reduction effort in the U.S. (2020)

More Information: Addressing plastic pollution

Partners: NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Border 2020 U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, University of California-Irvine FloodRISE project, University of California-San Diego Divina Community Station, University of San Diego Engineering Exchange for Social Justice