Reducing Marine Debris in the Lower Tijuana River Watershed

Trash along a muddy riverbed with concrete walls.

WILDCOAST is reducing ocean-bound single-use plastic waste and other debris by capturing trash in the Tijuana River and through a city-wide campaign to raise awareness, advance policy, and help the region transition away from single-use plastics.

Type of Project: North America Marine Debris Prevention and Removal

Region: Mexico

Project Dates: October 2021 - September 2023

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, WILDCOAST is leading this multi-collaborative effort with Yantec, ECOCE, and Recicladora Real to remove and recycle debris. WILDCOAST is also carrying out a behavior change campaign and engaging influential partners such as Tijuana’s baseball team, Los Toros, soccer team, Xolos, iconic lucha libre wrestler, El Hijo del Santo, and Badabun, a Tijuana-based social media strategy firm, to ensure a broad reach.

What is the project and why is it important?
With 73 percent of the Tijuana River Watershed in Mexico, the river and its tributaries flow through densely populated and growing communities in and around Tijuana. The river picks up and transports trash, waste tires, sewage, and other pollutants along its way to the Pacific Ocean. The result is a significant amount of cross-border waste in some of the most ecologically significant coastal and marine ecosystems in Southern California. 

In January 2021, WILDCOAST installed a trash boom, a floating barrier used to capture and collect trash, in a sediment basin in Los Laureles Canyon, Mexico. Its management and maintenance will be supported through this effort. Community members are also removing debris by hand. To ensure responsible disposal and repurposing of debris, WILDCOAST is working with plastic recycling companies Yantec, ECOCE, and Recicladora Real.

A city-wide campaign in Tijuana and a binational campaign in Mexico and the United States, boosted by sports teams and influencers to reach a larger public audience, is aiming to increase consumer awareness and reduce the use of single-use plastics in the border region. This project is actively reducing marine debris in these communities, providing valuable regional marine debris data, benefiting underserved low income communities, and providing a scalable solution for addressing marine debris across the United States-Mexico border.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.