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Countries with the least litter: CR, Belize, somewhere else?

Countries with the least litter: CR, Belize, somewhere else?

Old Apr 24th, 2022, 04:21 PM
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Countries with the least litter: CR, Belize, somewhere else?

Hi all - I'm writing as a long time lover of Costa Rica- our family just returned from our 9th trip, which overall was incredible as it always is (this is why we always go back! Magic every time!). One of the things I have always loved about CR is the country's commitment to the environment and the pristine beaches and natural areas. But this past trip (to the Nicoya Peninsula, mainly Montezuma) we were sad to see that plastic waste and litter is creeping in everywhere, even in protected areas. I work on environmental issues (including plastic waste) for a living so I do know a lot about the inevitability of this...but when I am on vacation, finding places where I don't need to feel depressed by the garbage everwhere is important (this is why we have never gone back to the Yucatan after visiting there 17 years ago, the garbage on the beaches was devastating). In my gut I feel like CR probably has a better handle on littering and ocean plastic than many other countries, but I'm wondering if I might be wrong and there might be other places we should try. Belize has always been interesting to me, and I'm wondering if anyone can tell me what the litter situation is like there. We don't ever go to big resorts and always road trip all over the place so I'm not interested in whether a particular resort is good at keeping their beach clean - I'm really more curious about the overall issue of garbage in the country as a whole. This is probably a weird question, but we only get to take one big vacation a year so I just don't want to feel sad the whole time I'm there. Thanks for any insights!
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Old Apr 25th, 2022, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by acomeara View Post
In my gut I feel like CR probably has a better handle on littering and ocean plastic than many other countries
No. I don't think it does have a good handle on such things. I think Costa Rica is terrible in this regard. The country has a reputation for being in the forefront on environmental issues, but the litter and trash problem is appalling. You can go to some outdoor event that attracts a lot of people. When it's over, there'll be garbage everywhere. People have just tossed it on the ground. Much as I love Costa Rica, this is one of its enigmas to me.

I could say, I don't notice this in other countries, but I don't spend the time in them that I spend in Costa Rica. I'll be in Belize next week. I'll keep my eyes open.
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Old Apr 25th, 2022, 11:48 AM
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I value the time and money that I have for travel, and so like you I want to spend them wisely -- and so I doubt I would have posed that question at all. There is a danger that you will make your decision on a lot of very unreliable evidence, and for the following reasons:
[1] First, as an applied statistician by profession, I would have to say that a trustworthy answer to your question would require years of research, starting with a valid way of measuring litter -- to the best of my knowledge, no such study has been undertaken.
[2] Which means that you are probably going to get a few subjective impressions by people who have different standards for what a litter problem might be, and who very likely have not spent a lot of time in each of the various Central American countries. They really won't have any idea as to how those countries compare.
[3] In fact, many responders will be anxious to promote -- or disparage -- the country they've visited, without any idea as to what the relative litter problem may be.
[4] Also, the litter problems may vary greatly within a country; no ordinary tourist will have any idea as to how to "average" them out in any meaningful way.
Forums like this are good for specific questions: Does this hotel have reliable hot water? Did this restaurant have friendly service? Was this particular beach litter-free? So yes, you may want to take due note if someone points out that a particular beach, or neighborhood, seemed litter-free, or not; but I would advise against banking your valuable travel time and money on personal impressions about how the the seven Central American countries compare in general. Few if any of the respondents who follow will be qualified to do what you're asking them to do.

Last edited by Faedus; Apr 25th, 2022 at 11:55 AM. Reason: clarify a couple of points
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Old Apr 25th, 2022, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Faedus View Post
[2] Which means that you are probably going to get a few subjective impressions by people who have different standards for what a litter problem might be, and who very likely have not spent a lot of time in each of the various Central American countries. They really won't have any idea as to how those countries compare.
I do feel qualified to address Costa Rica with the amount of time I've spent there over the past 30 years. If someone says they notice a lot of litter there, I'll say, yes, I agree. I don't have the experience, other than visits, in the other countries. That's why I can come away only with fleeting impressions of what goes on elsewhere.
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Old Apr 25th, 2022, 12:51 PM
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We've travelled to Costa Rica a number of times. The first time I really noticed litter was on a Rio Tarcoles tour. Huge piles of debris around, mainly tires that looked like they had been sitting there a long time. We've been to Belize a few times. Seems similar to CR, some places good, some not so good.
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Old Apr 26th, 2022, 05:04 AM
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Faedus - all your points well taken. I didn't expect anything but anecdotal answers and I do agree it wasn't the type of question best suited to a travel forum - but at the same time I couldn't think of anywhere else where I'd have a chance of uncovering something. Nonethess, it was a pretty pointless question to ask I suppose. I was just carrying around this weight in my heart after coming home and wanting to believe there might be somewhere. Magical thinking. Honestly, we saw lots of unlittered areas in CR - especially in the rural parts of the Nicoya Peninsula. And Montezuma itself wasn't terrible, in speaking to locals I know there is a lot of commitment to cleaning up there. All the bigger towns we drove through were bad but that's more expected. It was the protected areas that really crushed me.

Anyway, thanks to all who responded.
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Old Apr 26th, 2022, 05:10 AM
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Jeff - though we only have about 18 years of experience, it has been enough to see that the trajectory seems to be worsening rather than getting better. Though- when I compare to what I saw in Mexico so long ago, it's still exponentially better than that. Just worse than what I am used to in CR. When we first started going there we were stunned by how pristine it was...I guess it was inevitable that it couldn't last.
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Old Apr 26th, 2022, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by volcanogirl View Post
We've travelled to Costa Rica a number of times. The first time I really noticed litter was on a Rio Tarcoles tour. Huge piles of debris around, mainly tires that looked like they had been sitting there a long time. We've been to Belize a few times. Seems similar to CR, some places good, some not so good.
When we were in Montezuma a local told us that the Rio Tarcoles was identified as the main source of waste washing up on Playa Grande, along with Puntarenas.
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Old Apr 26th, 2022, 07:08 PM
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I don't know if you'll find a Latin American country, where, as a whole, that would be considered trash-free. For sure, each country has areas that are considered (relatively?) pristine, while other areas are nothing more than above ground landfills. As a Mexico resident, I found Huatulco & the Oaxacan coast quite clean, even apart from the resort areas. Likewise along portions of the Michoacan & Veracruz coasts. The latter being far removed from the typical tourist areas.
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Old Apr 26th, 2022, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by acomeara View Post
Nonethess, it was a pretty pointless question to ask I suppose.
No, it was not a pointless question. I've wondered the same thing about Costa Rica for a long time. This was the first time I'd ever seen someone address the matter on a travel forum.
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Old Apr 27th, 2022, 07:31 PM
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Picture of a beach south of Tulum in 1995, then two more shots about 50 miles further south in 2013. We were told it was washed up from dumping off the coast of Honduras. It's a problem.







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Old Apr 28th, 2022, 02:41 AM
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Ugh, those pictures are exactly what I remember from my trip to Tulum/Sian Ka'an in 2005. Though I recall even less sand. You could not safely walk. What I saw in CR this year was NOTHING like that, no where near as bad (mostly caps, ministraws, microplastic at the high tide line) but just sign of a worsening progression.

I recall when I was in Tulum the blame was being layed on cruise ships. Most of the research these days shows that ocean trash mainly sources from rivers. It's all so sad.
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Old Apr 28th, 2022, 06:07 PM
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The trash is there. Just a matter of if as a visitor you see it where you are. I think there are cultural differences (take a look at a Mexican beach after a holiday weekend and I'm not talking gringo tourists). But your question is much deeper than that. You don't want to be sad seeing the garbage, but that is only superficial, as to how and if the country really has a solution for trash/waste/garbage, recycling, etc. management in a sustainable, ongoing way is the more important question.

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Old May 6th, 2022, 02:21 PM
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Are you looking for a tropical/warm place only?
Because unfortunately that is probably why there are so much waste in those places, they are highly touristic in their beaches and a lot of these countries are also very overpopulated.

But anyway, may not be what you are looking for but may I suggest usually cold countries (just go in the summer). I love all the natural areas I have gone in Canada, there are amazing beaches in lakes in the middle of the forest in British Columbia. Also, I would like to suggest Nordic countries, Norway has wonderful places to visit and lots to hike too. My last consideration would be Iceland, very interesting territory to get immersed into...
I have found all these countries pretty clean (but that is probably because they really have low populations), still, if you work in environmental topics I am pretty sure you will find their shortcomings (which there are many everywhere) but yeah, they are probably some of the best places to not think on that and all of them have amazing forests (I am more of a forest guy).

In any case, good luck and hope you find an amazing place (and come back and tell us all about it!).
-Alex
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 07:24 AM
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Excellent question about trash.

Originally Posted by acomeara View Post
Hi all - I'm writing as a long time lover of Costa Rica- our family just returned from our 9th trip, which overall was incredible as it always is (this is why we always go back! Magic every time!). One of the things I have always loved about CR is the country's commitment to the environment and the pristine beaches and natural areas. But this past trip (to the Nicoya Peninsula, mainly Montezuma) we were sad to see that plastic waste and litter is creeping in everywhere, even in protected areas. I work on environmental issues (including plastic waste) for a living so I do know a lot about the inevitability of this...but when I am on vacation, finding places where I don't need to feel depressed by the garbage everwhere is important (this is why we have never gone back to the Yucatan after visiting there 17 years ago, the garbage on the beaches was devastating). In my gut I feel like CR probably has a better handle on littering and ocean plastic than many other countries, but I'm wondering if I might be wrong and there might be other places we should try. Belize has always been interesting to me, and I'm wondering if anyone can tell me what the litter situation is like there. We don't ever go to big resorts and always road trip all over the place so I'm not interested in whether a particular resort is good at keeping their beach clean - I'm really more curious about the overall issue of garbage in the country as a whole. This is probably a weird question, but we only get to take one big vacation a year so I just don't want to feel sad the whole time I'm there. Thanks for any insights!
I have been looking for a warm place on the water to spend winters for many years and trash/litter problem seems hard to avoid. My husband and I began visiting the Cancun to Tulum area in the late 1980ís and we fell madly in love with the region. Due to overdevelopment, trash, and sargasso it is sadly off the list. Iíve been reading about Costa Rica and Belize. Though Belize seems to have a litter problem too, Iíd like to learn more - by reading and by visiting.

Other Caribbean areas? Bahamas?

I wonder if there is a forum or such to to discuss this general topic: warm winter countries or regions for people who want cleaner surroundings but who do not want to pass thru the security gate and remain tucked into a tidy shiny faux mediterranean development for the winter.

Learning about other travelersís experiences and observations is helpful. Thank you for highlighting the trash and litter problem.







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Old Aug 21st, 2022, 10:26 AM
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Hey, I came across your thread as I was googling the countries with the least litter, as walking about my home city today was pretty depressing. However, I do know a place where I seen zero rubbish the whole time I was there, unless it was blown out of a bin. I holidayed on the Carribbean island of Guadeloupe in April this year. Even though the locals where all wearing disposable masks I didn't see one discarded outside, whereas back in Glasgow they were all over the place. I stayed on the two main islands and they were pristine! I think even the capital, I didn't see a litter problem. Litter makes me depressed too. And yup I get the bigger issue of who is litter dealt with us really important from an environmental point of view but the visual impact of seeing a place trashed upsets me. Guadeloupe was beautiful, very lush, people were nice, lots to do and no litter!!! And we explored a lot as rented a car. I would recommend Guadeloupe to anyone. They don't speak much English, I have a little French but my brother had none and we got by. The people are proud of their islands, perhaps the neighbouring ones are similar. Guadeloupe Def wouldn't disappoint.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2022, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by lyndsaydocherty0761 View Post
Hey, I came across your thread as I was googling the countries with the least litter, as walking about my home city today was pretty depressing. However, I do know a place where I seen zero rubbish the whole time I was there, unless it was blown out of a bin. I holidayed on the Carribbean island of Guadeloupe in April this year. Even though the locals where all wearing disposable masks I didn't see one discarded outside, whereas back in Glasgow they were all over the place. I stayed on the two main islands and they were pristine! I think even the capital, I didn't see a litter problem. Litter makes me depressed too. And yup I get the bigger issue of who is litter dealt with us really important from an environmental point of view but the visual impact of seeing a place trashed upsets me. Guadeloupe was beautiful, very lush, people were nice, lots to do and no litter!!! And we explored a lot as rented a car. I would recommend Guadeloupe to anyone. They don't speak much English, I have a little French but my brother had none and we got by. The people are proud of their islands, perhaps the neighbouring ones are similar. Guadeloupe Def wouldn't disappoint.
Guadeloupe sounds awesome! Sadly the airfare is twice the price for us. Maybe someday. For now we've already booked Costa Rica again for next spring, we are creatures of habit I guess!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2022, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by AlexTTT View Post
Are you looking for a tropical/warm place only?
Because unfortunately that is probably why there are so much waste in those places, they are highly touristic in their beaches and a lot of these countries are also very overpopulated.

But anyway, may not be what you are looking for but may I suggest usually cold countries (just go in the summer). I love all the natural areas I have gone in Canada, there are amazing beaches in lakes in the middle of the forest in British Columbia. Also, I would like to suggest Nordic countries, Norway has wonderful places to visit and lots to hike too. My last consideration would be Iceland, very interesting territory to get immersed into...
I have found all these countries pretty clean (but that is probably because they really have low populations), still, if you work in environmental topics I am pretty sure you will find their shortcomings (which there are many everywhere) but yeah, they are probably some of the best places to not think on that and all of them have amazing forests (I am more of a forest guy).

In any case, good luck and hope you find an amazing place (and come back and tell us all about it!).
-Alex
We don't travel much in the summer as we live in a place where it's quite beautiful so no need to leave and it's hard to justify the travel costs. But April is a less nice month here and that's when we like a warm vacation after the long winter. Iceland definitely on our list for someday though. I've also always wanted to visit British Columbia too!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2022, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by baldone View Post
I don't know if you'll find a Latin American country, where, as a whole, that would be considered trash-free. For sure, each country has areas that are considered (relatively?) pristine, while other areas are nothing more than above ground landfills. As a Mexico resident, I found Huatulco & the Oaxacan coast quite clean, even apart from the resort areas. Likewise along portions of the Michoacan & Veracruz coasts. The latter being far removed from the typical tourist areas.
I've always wanted to go to those areas of Mexico! I'm really happy you recommended them and I will definitely look into it for a future trip. Unfortunately I hadn't revisited this thread in awhile and I already booked our next trip to CR...but maybe 2024 will be Mexico.
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