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Environment

WILDCOAST nets catch plastic trash floating down the Tijuana River

The hills of Tijuana are home to many neighborhoods with unpermitted houses. A lot of them don’t have trash collection service. Fay Crevoshay, communications and policy director for WILDCOAST, explained that creates a problem in the Tijuana River Estuary.

What would you do if nobody picked up the trash? So they put it in plastic bags and they walk to the bus stop and they leave it there. And they leave it all over the place,” she said.

The Tijuana River Estuary is a bundle of tributaries, which ultimately carry that trash as it’s washed off the streets when it rains. Walk along the estuary and you’ll see huge piles of trash; car tires, plastic foam, bottles and bags, just to name a few.

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WILDCOAST is an environmental group with offices in San Diego and Baja California. It has strung a permanent trash net across one of those tributaries, in Tijuana, to catch plastic waste that’s floating to the ocean.

Now they have funding to put up another.

Crevoshay said their first trash boom, as the net is called, has caught 133,000 pounds of waste over two years. About 93% of it, she said, is plastic and tires.

“We sort it. We weigh it so we are creating real data,” Crevoshay said. “And we are trying to reuse as much as possible and recycle the rest.”

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WILDCOAST plans to build another trash boom with financial help from the Benioff Foundation and the San Diego Foundation,

“We’re going to build it in another of the tributaries of the Tijuana River called Camino Verde,” she said.

That’s also the name of a Tijuana neighborhood whose waste is washed into the river.

Trash that's been washed into the Tijuana River Estuary. Undated photograph.
Courtesy of WILDCOAST
Trash that's been washed into the Tijuana River Estuary. Undated photograph.

We visited the river estuary on a day that followed weeks of heavy rain, making for washed out roads and a valley teeming with trash and sewage runoff.

Does Crevoshay think the job they do is overwhelming? She still has hope but wants some help.

“We have to start doing something. We say people need to be conscious of the problem. No-no! People have to start acting,” she said. “Don’t buy more plastic. Don’t wrap your food in plastic in the fridge. Put a plate on it. It’s a fridge!”

She says the new trash boom still needs to be permitted and will be built later in the year.

Corrected: January 23, 2023 at 5:21 PM PST
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story said the new trash boom was going to be added on the U.S. side, but in fact it is on the Mexican side of the border.