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Sasha DiGiulian Joins Players for the Planet to Fight the Dominican Republic’s Plastic Crisis

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Perhaps you’ll remember the widely circulated video from 2018 featuring a shoreline in the Dominican Republic—a pulsing current of trash lining the once popular tourist destination, Montesinos Beach. The video was shocking, although not to those paying attention. 

“It happens pretty much all the time if there is a strong rainfall or a storm,” said Cyrill Gutsch in an interview with the New York Times. Gutsch is the founder of Parley for the Oceans, an organization dedicated to preserving oceans and removing plastic. 

More than three years later, the trash keeps coming. Luckily, so has attention and efforts to address the problem.

Chris Dickerson, a Major League Baseball player from 2008 to 2014, founded Players for the Planet in 2008 after observing the widespread use of single-use plastic water bottles by professional baseball teams. Players for the Planet unites athletes to focus on positive environmental change via programs ranging from sustainable improvements to youth fields to e-waste recycling drives. One such program, in partnership with Parley for the Oceans, focuses on the Dominican Republic. 

On December 4, pro climber Sasha DiGiulian joined 11 past and present Major League Baseball players; professional beach volleyball player, Jeremy Casebeer; and numerous young Dominican academy prospects from the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland A’s at Montesinos and Fuerte San Gil Beach. In total, 150 volunteers gathered for a day of cleanup. 

“As a rock climber, our sport exists intimately in the outdoors, and so naturally I care a lot about protecting them, and I think it’s really awesome to see so many athletes unite over a common cause,” says DiGiulian. “I’d love to just do a better job at being a more sustainable human. I think that I can definitely reduce my consumption and think about reusing more products, buying new products less, and, professionally, I’d love to just inspire more people to care about the planet.”

Considering some of the more popular crags around the Dominican Republic are beachside, such as Playa Frontón near Las Galeras, climbing is directly impacted on the island.

[Also Read: One Wild Ride: Untamed Adventure in an unlikely climbers’ paradise]

How much have the beaches changed since 2018? “Honestly, not much,” says Nick Parson, communications for Players for the Planet. “What we saw on those beaches is pretty much the same scene. There are numerous challenges in the Dominican Republic, ranging from consumer awareness of the impact of plastics, to lack of investment in infrastructure to deal with the issue, to the continued distribution of these products by the companies that make them.”

During the single-day push, nearly 500 pounds of marine and plastic debris was removed: 215 pounds of polyester, 80 pounds of high-density polyethylene plastic, 45 pounds of styrofoam, 18 pounds of Tetra Pak (food cartons), and 20 pounds of discarded shoes. The cleanup marked the organization’s eighth of the year—and third year running—in the Dominican Republic.

Says Parson, “Our hope is that by bringing visibility to the plastics issue in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere around the world, people will begin to pressure policy makers to look for solutions closer to the origins of the issue.”