SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Tijuana residents typically don’t recycle, but in the few last months, the environmental group Wildcoast has been recruiting entire neighborhoods south of the border as a way to promote its benefits.

The group, based in Imperial Beach, California, is providing bins and bags for people to fill with plastic bottles.

Tijuana, a city of more than 2 million people, has a few recycling centers but all the materials have to be trucked to the interior of Mexico, making it a costly proposition for companies, and this is one of the reasons recycling has not caught on in Tijuana, said Fay Crevoshay of Wildcoast.

“There’s no efficient way to do it in all of Baja California, Sonora, Sinaloa all of Northwest Mexico,” said Crevoshay. “The nearest facility is in Guadalajara, Mexico.”

Crevoshay believes that, eventually, a company will realize there’s a lot of money to be made from recycling and will open a plant in the region.

Plastic bottles and other debris in one area of the Tijuana River Valley. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

In the meantime, she says there’s no reason not to impress on people the value of recycling considering most of the discarded plastic is often washed away into canyons that deliver rain runoff into the Tijuana River Valley north of the border and then out to the Pacific Ocean.

“We started a contest in Tijuana involving all the neighborhoods to participate,” she said. “We have 12 neighborhoods that are involved.”

Crevoshay says community leaders are taking charge and residents are collecting their plastic bottles.

Neighborhoods with the most plastic will be awarded prizes and will have celebrations hosted by Wildcoast.

“We’re trying to get everybody not to trash their plastics into regular trash bins but to separate it and put it aside,” said Crevoshay. “The point is in three months you change your habits and then you get used to it, it becomes part of your regular habits.”

Crevoshay says for now, they are taking the plastic to recycling centers and giving it away as an incentive for these facilities to accept it.

“We’re using grants to pick up the plastic and taking it to these places.”

Crevoshay told Border Report as long as they have money, they will continue with their programs, which have already collected more than 154,000 pounds of plastic containers that likely would have ended up in the Tijuana River and out to sea.