Battling Plastic Pollution in the Dominican Republic, with Proyecto Tortuga

The Dominican Republic, is well known for the gorgeous beaches and lush tropical surroundings. And I have experienced the beauty first hand. It truly is a stunning island, and one of my favourite destinations to visit!

 

Playa Macao

However, during my time spent on the island over the years, there also without a doubt, is a noticeable problem with waste in the Dominican Republic. 

    While vacationing on the gorgeous landscaped properties of the many beautiful resorts lining the coasts of the Dominican, they are pretty much pristine. Sadly, outside the resort gates well, that’s another story. 

Many streets are just lined with garbage. Random piles of garbage take over empty lots. The amount of plastic waste in the country specifically, is outrageous. 

Recently, a video went viral, showing a disgusting amount of garbage, and waste, that was just rolling onto the shores of Santo Domingo. It is a heartbreaking sight, and a crushing realty. 

Garbage washing onto Montesinos Beach, Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic

Throughout Canada, you are actually taxed per plastic bag while shopping.  In hopes that the public will invest in their own reusable shopping bags and totes. And for the most part, it works! My family typically has a stock pile of reusable bags on hand always. If you forget them at home, they always sell them right there in the supermarkets and stores, and there is no harm in adding to the collection of reusable bags! 🙂

Here, on the island plastic bags, as well as plastic cups, containers, you name it… are used in excess. 

I have also made notice, the lack of recycling bins or containers. In North America, it is standard to see recycling bins displayed around in numerous public locations for the collection of your glass, plastic, and paper waste. On top of that, we also are given green and blue bins for home waste, to collect our recyclables, as well as biodegradable materials, (items like food scraps, human and animal waste, leaves and grass clippings) collected regularly by our Government for proper waste management. 

In the Dominican Republic, it is a rare sight. Devastating right? 

 

They have the right idea in Bayahibe, DR…but where are the actual bins to collect everything??? 

Jochen Catteeuw also saw the problem, and he is on a mission to help solve it. 

Due to a lack of Government funding for recycling programs in the Dominican Republic, Jochen feels with help of local businesses, and tourists, we will see more of an impact on changing the way waste is handled on the island.

He is hoping that with the buzz from the community, he will get the Government on board for adequate and consistent funding for waste management, as well as legitimate recycling programs in the Dominican Republic. 

Waste in Tourism

    The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism reported that in 2018 there was a 6.2 percent increase for overall tourism to the country.

5 million of those tourists were in Punta Cana alone. Truthfully, I’m embarrassed to say that before my research for this article, I didn’t give much thought to the amount of waste the average tourist contributes to their vacation destination. 

Did you know, the average tourists alone produces roughly 7.7 pounds of waste everyday!? That made me feel HORRIBLE! 

What is that waste from?

I’m not just talking about the items we physically throw away each day. Many items used to make sure us tourists are comfortable, and happy during our stay are imported from around the world, and that process unfortunately, creates waste. 

The problem is, that a whopping 70% of it actually ends up in landfills here in the Dominican Republic. Instead of properly being recycled or reused. 

We need to seriously lower that percentage of waste. And Jochen feels we can do that by changing the model, the blueprint in the way things have been done in the Dominican Republic, in terms of waste management.

That means adequate education locally. Specifically for the youth, in how they can help to reduce waste in their own country.

About Proyecto Tortuga

    Jochen, originally from Belgium, created the project “Proyecto Tortuga” this past April 2019.

A project to help create a real interaction, and connection between tourists and locals. To help educate the public on plastic pollution, and promote eco tourism. And in doing that, he hopes to leave a lasting impression on the tourists visiting the country. 

 

Jochen Catteeuw, founder of “Proyecto Tortuga RD”

His project has been organizing beach clean ups in the Punta Cana area, on beaches like Playa Macao, and Bávaro Beach in Los Corales, over the last 4 months.

These Clean ups, which are typically no more than 90 minutes, are open to locals to participate, but geared more towards tourists visiting the country who wish to contribute to keeping our earth clean, and to help reduce the carbon footprint made by tourists visiting as well. 

Not only that, this project also shows what an awesome sense of community this island shares. Working together, out of the kindness of their hearts. Jochen has partnered up with some amazing local business to strengthen this project. 

The companies, Proyecto Tortuga included, are doing this work voluntarily. Donating their time, energy and resources to something so important to all of us. 

Clean Up at Hoyo Claro

Volunteers from a recent “Clean Up” in Punta Cana

 

Proyecto Tortuga recently teamed up with local swimwear company “Agua Menta” for a successful clean up at the Hoyo Claro Natural Monument. This is a protected area, of wetlands with lakes, lagoons and forests in the Punta Cana area. 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the clean up itself, the volunteers were all given education on plastic pollution, and t-shirts to keep. The group were also treated to yummy all natural popsicles donated from local company Joy Nutritional

 

Cleaning up with sweet treats from “Joy Nutritional”

 

On August 25th, there will be another clean up with lunch included at a local Dominican Ranch, as well as a dip in a fresh river! This excursion is partnered with Bavaro Runners who have joined the project on a more permanent level, donating their time, and the vehicles to help transport future volunteers during the clean up excursions.

You can send Proyecto Tortuga a message to be added to their volunteer list!

 

 

The Big Bottle

     Most recently Jochen has introduced the BIG BOTTLE Project. Constructed by metal, there are two versions of the BIG BOTTLE. One version is made by a local artist, blacksmith and environmentalist of the Dominican, originally from Puerto Plata.

 

BIG BOTTLES. (Version on the right, constructed by a local Dominican Artist.)

These BIG BOTTLES are created to hold discarded plastic bottles for recycling. Each BIG BOTTLE, can hold up to 1000 empty plastic bottles.

Then, through Ecoservices Dominicana, the plastic bottles are collected for proper reusing and recycling.

 

Inside the recycling center of EcoServices Dominicana

Glass recyclables are shipped to Costa Rica, as there are not adequate factories, and machinery in the Dominican Republic to process recycled glass. 

 

Me surrounded by BIG BOTTLES 😁

There are about 6 (so far) BIG BOTTLES found throughout the Punta Cana area to collect empty plastic bottles.

Including one sponsored by Quicksilver Punta Cana at Playa Macao, One sponsored by SeaPro Divers found on Playa Cortecito, as well as one sponsored and located in the Downtown Mall.

There are also 3 BIG BOTTLES set up in Santo Domingo for bottle collection, sponsored by Fundacion Tropigas

 

You can find where these big bottles are located on a map, here. 

 

   

    I want to mention, that EcoServices Dominicana is the only waste management company in the Dominican Republic internationally recognized – certified jointly with ISO 9001 and 14001 for quality and environmental management.

That means that this is THE legitimate recycling company on the island. They have been working SO hard at implementing legitimate waste collection programs in the Dominican Republic.

EcoServices Dominicana

The plan with Proyecto Tortuga and Ecoservices Dominicana, with the help of local business sponsorship, is to have more than 100 BIG BOTTLES distributed throughout the Dominican Republic. 

If you are a business looking to sponsor a BIG BOTTLE the fees are as follows:

 

 

The industrial BIG Bottles are $900USD 

 

The BIG BOTTLE version created by the local artist are $700USD 

 

Monthly maintenance is $100/month 

 

It’s a Team Effort…

    Some of the other fantastic business who have joined forces with Proyecto Tortuga are:

Suplipucansa, Bevu Life, BeachCorps, Malukos, Connect Travel DMC

Some of the bottles collected go to companies that use recycled materials in their clothing, to make rash guards. Companies like, Ozeano Swimwear, and Cosita Linda Beachwear

Each rash guard has roughly 6 plastic bottles incorporated in each piece clothing!

They are also hoping to team up with a builder that incorporates plastic materials to help construct homes. A prototype has already been done, here in the Dominican, in Macao of a  “plastic” home. 

So how can you help? 

• Join the local clean ups organized by Proyecto Tortuga!

• Please help spread the word! 

• Donate to Proyecto Tortuga

 

To really make a significant amount of change, to really make an impact, the demand for investors for this project is crucial.

If you are a business owner, or know someone that is in the Dominican Republic, that cares about the future of our planet, please, I strongly urge for you to share this post with them!

Get them get in touch with Proyecto Tortuga to find out how they can invest in the project. 

 

For More Information…

 

Connect with Jochen via Facebook:

www.facebook.com/proyectotortugard 

 

Or via Instagram:

www.instagram.com/proyectotortugard 

 

Remember friends, REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE!

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