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A Town’s War On Plastic

In 2016, Mayor Mauricio Mendez initiated a ban on the sale and distribution of single-use plastics in San Pedro La Laguna, a small Mayan town in southwest Guatemala.

Today, the town’s Lake Atitlán is free of plastic waste, but this wasn’t always the case.

Photo Credit: On the Road Media

Before the ban, the town had a plastic problem: disposable shopping bags, food wrappers, and plastic bottles saturated the municipal landfill which mostly ended up in the lake, damaging its delicate ecosystem. After all, lake-dwelling creatures were competing with garbage for living space and many were being harmed by the litter.

Though the ban was met with resistance from residents accustomed to the convenience of single-use plastic, the local leadership was able to enforce the ban by providing reusable or biodegradable replacements and educating locals about the importance of proper waste management.

Today, the mayor boasts that 80% of the residents no longer use single-use plastics. In fact, their meat comes wrapped in banana leaves, tortillas are wrapped in cloth napkins, and rubber baskets handcrafted by local artisans are used for groceries.

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

[Related: Eco-friendly Habits to Start this Week]

This town has accomplished what many thought impossible, and GreaterGood.org’s Project Peril is determined to make it happen around the world. Our partnerships, like the one with Free the Ocean, enable volunteers to clean our beaches and make our planet a cleaner, better place to live.