SICA: Preventing plastic waste in the Caribbean Sea

Project description

Title: Preventing plastic waste in Central America and the Caribbean
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Devel-opment (BMZ)
Country: Guatemala (headquarters), Belize, Dominican Republic, El Sal-vador, Honduras, Mexico
Lead executing agency: Central American Commission for Environment and Develop-ment (CCAD) of the Central American Integration System (SICA)
Overall term: 2020 to 2023


In Central America and the Caribbean, the large quantities of plastic waste entering the Caribbean Sea are posing increasing problems. Eighty-nine per cent of marine litter in the Caribbean comes from sources on land. Half of this plastic waste is packaging, much of it used only once. As a result of this plastic waste, the condition of the Meso-American reef is increasingly deteriorating. It is the second largest coral reef in the world and performs many key functions for people and nature. For example, fishing and tourism are extremely important sectors of the economy for all Caribbean states. The deterioration of marine ecosystems and river basins is having an increasingly negative impact on economic output.

To preserve the coral reef and the associated ecosystem services, it is vital to reduce plastic waste and prevent it from entering the sea to avoid the huge cost of subsequently removing it. The task of collecting and sorting waste is often performed in unhygienic working conditions by people without an employment contract. In many cases, only higher-value materials such as metals are subsequently reused, whereas low-quality plastics end up in landfill as it is not worth processing and recycling them.

On top of this, the private sector is not yet sufficiently equipped to deal with all this plastic waste. The companies responsible for producing much of the plastic lack the expertise and (digital) tools they need in order to set up effective waste and environmental management systems. Equally, there are very few opportunities for those concerned to meet and discuss possible solutions to the problems caused by plastic waste. The recycling industry has not yet developed business models to avoid and reuse plastic waste on the scale needed. While there is a great deal of potential, at present it remains unused.


The general conditions for preventing plastic waste from entering the Caribbean Sea have improved.


The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is supporting the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD), its eight member states of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and Mexico. Thanks to its advisory services, vital reform measures can be implemented, and plastic waste can be prevented from entering the Caribbean Sea. The private sector and civil society are actively involved.

The project focuses on four areas.

Regional exchange to prevent plastic waste from entering the Caribbean Sea: To this end, the project is developing efficient networking and event formats for various stakeholder groups. It is introducing regional and national processes to improve communication and establishing links to global alliances and initiatives.

Strengthening the capacity of the private sector to deal with plastic waste: The project aims to build on various sectoral business models, in particular within the tourism and packaging industries, through innovative ideas that will expand and optimise the value chain. Systematic capacity-building measures are designed to help companies develop and jointly implement efficient solutions.

Implementing pilot projects to prevent plastic waste from entering the sea: The project carefully selects appropriate pilot areas and the stakeholders involved. Based on specific criteria, the business models and processes to reduce plastic waste are then applied and finally implemented and assessed in the pilot strategies.

Raising awareness of the waste challenges among the population and private sector: The project develops and applies innovative methods to make people more aware of the issue, especially using social media. This includes measures to implement local education programmes and regional awareness-raising campaigns, for example to reduce plastic waste or ensure that waste is properly sorted.

The project concentrates on strategic, regional approaches to avoiding plastic waste. It initiates discussions on mandatory action and supervision in areas such as extended producer responsibility, plastic waste legislation and regulation, and on the harmonisation of legislation. Synergies are also being created through cooperation with various industries, the tourism sector, start-ups and non-governmental organisations. 

Through regional dialogue between the SICA countries and Mexico, the project is making a key contribution to the Action Plan for Marine Protection and Sustainable Fishing drawn up by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter approved by the G20 states in 2017. 

The support provided, with the ultimate aim of building a circular economy, is making a significant contribution to environmental and climate protection and to the economic recovery of Central America. It is creating new, future-proof jobs.

Last updated: December 2020

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