Plastics, construction materials, wood, human waste, even a human cranium. These are just some of the objects that are found washing up on a daily basis at Carpayo beach, dubbed the dirtiest beach in Latin America by NGO Vida Peru.
With 2.8 kilos of rubbish per square meter, Carpayo far exceeds any other beach in Latin America for the amount of solid waste accumulated on its shores.
“We try to clean up but the next day but more rubbish takes its place. We compare the results with other places where there are similar campaigns, like Hawaii or the Philippines but none compare to Carpayo for the density of rubbish accumulated. It’s unique.” explained Arturo Alfaro, President of Vida Peru, to Peru21 news.
Threats to tourism and fishing
A team of volunteers sent out by Vida Peru in a recent cleaning campaign recovered over 60 tonnes of garbage in under three hours.
The organisation estimates that throughout the year up to 3000 tons of rubbish have accumulated over what is just a 500 meter shoreline, destroying what was once a thriving attraction for locals and tourists. It has also hampered the ability of fishermen to make a living.
“We have to go further out to sea now, the garbage is killing the food source for the fish, and even if there are still fish we can hardly get to them. Our nets get broken,” commented fisherman Jorge Rìos to Latin Correspondent.
A victim of economic success
The sorry state of Carpayo is largely the result of Peru’s success. A growing economy has fuelled a rapid construction boom which has seen many firms enter the market who do not abide by basic environmental standards for waste disposal.
In the most part the waste does not originate in Carpayo or Callao however, but further down the Limeñan Coast in the districts of San Miguel and Magdalena del Mar. The local municipalities have been accused of turning a blind eye to the problem, happy to see their waste carried away by the currents to somewhere else.
Arturo Alfaro also blames the Ministries of Health and Environment for not devising and implementing a sustainable recycling policy for solid waste.
“Between 40 percent and 50 percent of the rubbish that reaches Carpayo is recyclable material” he lamented.
Clean up could take up to 15 years
The municipality of Callao has spent nearly $3 million cleaning up Carpayo and two other beaches from what it terms “waste from outside areas”.
The work of volunteers and groups like Vida Peru have also made significant dents into the mountains of rubbish.
However, Alfaro estimates that even with these combined efforts, it will take Carpayo around 15 years to return to its former glory.
One piece of news that might be cause for optimism or -disbelief- is that the waters of Carpayo are still classified as not a threat to human health by the Ministry of Health.