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03/05/2018 Plastic pollution

Plastic-free Galapagos – Updates from our project partner Grupo Eco Cultural Organizado (GECO)

Outreach and engagement with the local community in Galapagos is key to our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos programme.

Photograph of Ben Stockwell

Ben Stockwell

Former Communications & Membership Officer at Galapagos Conservation Trust

Our project partners, Grupo Eco Cultural Organizado (GECO), play a key role in the Plastic-free Galapagos programme. They deliver outreach sessions to change attitudes towards plastic consumption on the Islands focussing on schools, businesses and the local community as a whole. In 2017, their initial objectives were to reduce the number of plastic bags used and the amount of rubbish on the streets of San Cristobal island.

So far, the team has worked over 711 hours to spread their message directly to 2,000 people, reaching and a further 3,000 indirectly – incredible when you realise the population of San Cristobal is around 6,000! Their innovative bottle-cap doll, ‘Caps’, has been at the heart of the campaign, symbolising a commitment to reducing and reusing plastics.

Why not try making one yourself with our handy guide here?

Having recruited 15 youth leaders to assist with the campaign, the team have delivered workshops with local community members across the island, including bottle-cap doll making sessions. They have also put on puppet presentations and video forums, and attended community fairs.

Some of the local youth campaigners on San Cristobal island © GECO

A survey of the students showed that the sessions have made a significant impact on those involved. An incredible 97% of those surveyed had shared the plastic-free message with their families and friends. Critically, the survey also showed that the campaign was helping make behavioural changes, with the vast majority of respondents saying they now take a reusable bag to the shops with them.

In addition to their work with school groups, GECO have been promoting using reusable bags and reducing straws in San Cristobal bed-and-breakfasts, hotels and restaurants, achieving visible results. Furthermore, they have worked with local shops on the island to promote responsible plastic usage and engaged locals with practical games and activities to inspire them to make changes to their plastic consumption.

A GECO workshop in action on San Cristobal island © Nina Sletmo

As part of the team’s neighbourhood strategy to engage locals with street cleans, a network of 53 citizens was set up to clean up rubbish on a daily basis. Their efforts have been incredible, with large amounts of rubbish being removed every day and enough bottle caps to make 665 dolls!

This year, ‘Caps‘ will accompany letters to authorities at a local, national and international level to increase publicity of the campaign. Workshops to make the dolls will be continued and their visibility within the community increased to act as a permanent reminder to locals about their commitment to reduce plastic usage. GECO’s neighbourhood strategy will be strengthened and adapted to involve more local people to remove rubbish from the streets of San Cristobal. These efforts will tie in with the latest government announcement about the restrictions of single-use plastics being rolled out over the next few months.

If you would like to help us in our bid to make Galapagos plastic-free, why not donate to GCT today?

A year in numbers for GECO

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