The different sectors of tourism industry generate substantial amounts of solid waste that has numerous impacts on the environment. The increasing number of tourist and population growth of Cancun has transformed it into a city with high solid waste production. Waste disposal has become a serious problem in areas with high concentrations of tourist activities. The garbage has generally been sent to illegal garbage dumps and has become a constant worry for ecological groups. In 1993, there were 47,000 tons of solid waste remain uncollected and municipal administration had to appoint a private enterprise for garbage recollection from the hotel zone. Nowadays, 329, 000 tons of garbage is collected annually in city; a quarter of the total garbage is produced by the hotel zone (Romero, 2009).
The present attempts of large scale recycling, composting or incineration have been less efficient. Apart from land based tourism, recreational boats and cruise industry generate a considerable amount of solid waste, for instance, a cruise ship carrying 2,700 passengers can generate at least a ton of garbage per day. The Caribbean Sea along the state of Quintana Roo has high cruise and commercial ship traffic; solid waste generated from such vessels pose a potential threat of pollution to the sea and all of the coastal areas that it washes (Morán, 2011). One major type of solid waste generated is plastic; continuously posing a serious risk to the marine and coastal environments. The death of marine animals and shore birds due to improper disposal of plastic waste has also been recorded.
Similar to land based tourism the solid waste produced from sea based tourism also ends up in landfill facilities putting an additional burden on its limited functionality. Given the porous nature of soil, closed landfills and dumps used for waste disposal has created threats both to the quality of ground water and marine coastal water through generation of leachate. Leachate can not only impact the near-shore marine flora and fauna but also can affect human health through its ingestion if they get into potable ground water or surface water resources. Besides the issue related to leakage of landfills, solid waste pollution in coastal and inland areas have significant negative aesthetic impacts (Sarmiento, 2008).
Solid waste and littering has posed a threat to the physical appearance of the water and shoreline and can cause the death of marine animals. The improper disposal has spoiled the natural environment, rivers, scenic areas, and roadsides to some extent. There have been evidences of tourists getting injured from broken glass bottles and improperly disposed cans on the beaches. Additionally, the improper disposal of solid waste can provide breeding ground for mosquitoes that can spread diseases like dengue fever. Considering the limited of functionality of waste disposal plants in the city, it is obvious that solid waste produced by the tourism sector only adds to an overall waste disposal problem continuously threating both the environment and human health (Miller and Auyong, 1991).