Trash is an enormous problem throughout the department in Cusco. Although the average Cusqueñan likely produces far less waste than then the average international visitor in their home country, the infrastructure for the collection and disposal of waste and recycling is severely limited. In cities, trash collection trucks pass through accessible areas 1-2 times per week. However, in more remote communities or areas without vehicle access, disposing of your waste can be challenging. Public garbage cans and other methods of disposal are few and far between, and recycling services are often difficult to locate and available for only a small range of materials. For these reasons, it is not uncommon at all to encounter trash strewn along the road, in ravines, and in empty lots.
To visitors, litter can produce reactions of surprise and dismay, particularly along otherwise pristine and scenic trek routes. What is often not understood is that tourism is a major contributor to waste throughout the region. Waste disposal on treks is difficult, depending on the route, and trash must be carried out and transported back to Cusco. Less responsible operators will skip this step and leave trash along the trail, or along the road back to town. Even in the city, creating waste is difficult to avoid; tap water in not potable, and few hotels supply drinking water to refill bottles. The result of all this is a lots and lots of waste in the form of plastic water bottles, boxed lunch containers and more, most of which accumulates in Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
In signing the TAP pledge, Ayni Peru Expedition seeks to deepen our commitment to minimizing the trash produced by our clients to the absolute minimum, and to hopefully motivate other trek and tour operators in Cusco to do the same. We have found that when clients arrive in Peru prepared to deal with water accessibility as it is, they are less likely to purchase the numerous disposable plastic bottles that are a part of most visitor’s vacation. For this reason, we include pre-departure water treatment information provided by TAP to all clients. In addition, Ayni Peru requires trek clients to bring their own reusable bottle for the water refills we provide, and use reusable containers and utensils for box lunches and trek meals. Beginning in 2015, we will also begin providing SteriPENS for our client’s use, for situations where water refills are not available. Please wish us luck with our waste reduction goals in 2015!
Guest blogger: Amanda Zenick from Ayni Peru Expedition