An exemplary Mayan village in Guatemala fights plastic pollution

Posted on 03 September 2019.

In 2016, the Guatemalan village of San Pedro La Laguna banned single-use plastics to rid the local lake of this waste. More about this exemplary citizen initiative.

In just two years, 80% of villagers have stopped using single-use plastics.

When Mauricio Méndez began his term as mayor of San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala in 2016, he had several priorities, including ridding the majestic local Atitlán lake of the huge amount of plastic waste that was jeopardizing its biodiversity - the main source of income for the fishermen there. He quickly passed a by-law banning the sale and distribution of disposable plastic bags, straws and expanded polystyrene containers.
As a result, in San Pedro La Laguna, "plastic-free" has become a way of life and the village was the first municipality in the country to get rid of this source of pollution. The inhabitants were all very enthusiastic and soon banished these products from their daily lives.
To replace them, they took inspiration from their ancestral traditions and began making more eco-friendly biodegradable objects: woven baskets to store their purchases from the market, woven towels to keep the bread fresh, and banana leaves to wrap meat, fish and cheese. In two years, 80% of the citizens in the village stopped using single-use plastics, and the new habit has even helped revive the local economy through traditional crafts.
And that's not all. To clean Lake Atitlán and encourage biodiversity, fishermen spontaneously went into action: between 600 and 700 bags of waste are being harvested from the lake every year. A waste sorting and recycling system has also been set up in the municipality.
The mayor is delighted with the positive feedback from this new local policy, which promotes eco-design and recycling, pillars of the circular economy. His next fight is a new by-law banning the extraction of sand from the river.