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Only Here Podcast: Slowing The Flow Of Trash Across The US-Mexico Border

In this undated photo, a volunteer sits on one of the dozens of old tires used in a construction project in Tijuana's Los Laureles canyon.
Sam McLaughlin
In this undated photo, a volunteer sits on one of the dozens of old tires used in a construction project in Tijuana's Los Laureles canyon.
In this episode: A story about trash and dirt flowing from one side of the U.S.-Mexico border to the other, and two guys’ plan to stop it. The state of California spends $1.8 million annually on a system that keeps trash and dirt from clogging up the estuary in Border Field State Park, a park that butts up against the U.S.-Mexico border fence. The agency that takes care of the park, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, says the system has stopped approximately 2 million pounds of debris from entering the environmentally sensitive estuary. But the trash just keeps coming and coming, pouring through a culvert under the border that's connected to polluted canyons in Tijuana. And perpetually managing the pricey problem instead of actually solving the problem seems like the forever plan. That is, unless Steven Wright and Waylon Matson’s idea gets funded. The environmentalists want to use re-purposed trash from the canyon to build retaining walls and other structures in Tijuana's Los Laureles canyon that would prevent the trash and dirt from reaching the U.S. in the first place.

The state of California spends $1.8 million annually on a system that keeps trash and dirt from clogging up the estuary in Border Field State Park, a park that butts up against the U.S.-Mexico border fence.

Kids sit on the sign for Border Field State Park in this photo taken in 2015.
Chris Perigrin
Kids sit on the sign for Border Field State Park in this photo taken in 2015.

The agency that takes care of the park, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, says the system has stopped approximately two million pounds of debris from entering the environmentally sensitive estuary.

But the trash just keeps coming and coming, pouring through a culvert under the border fence that's connected to polluted canyons in Tijuana. And perpetually managing the pricey problem instead of actually solving the problem seems like the forever plan.

That is unless Steven Wright and Waylon Matson’s idea gets funded. The environmentalists want to use repurposed trash from the canyon to build retaining walls and other structures in Tijuana's Los Laureles Canyon that would prevent the trash and dirt from reaching the U.S. in the first place.

Trash spills down a hillside of Tijuana's Los Laureles canyon in this photo taken July 26, 2019.
Kinsee Morlan
Trash spills down a hillside of Tijuana's Los Laureles canyon in this photo taken July 26, 2019.

On a new episode of "Only Here," a KPBS podcast about the unexplored subcultures, creativity and struggles at the U.S.-Mexico border, a story about trash and dirt flowing from one side of the border to the other, and how two guys plan to stop it.