Monday 22nd September, 2008


Keeping it clean Coast to Coast

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Even the little ones got involved in the campaign.

By Suzanne Bhagan

Colm Imbert, Minister of Works and Transport, described the recent submersion of part of the Solomon Hochoy Highway as “bizarre.” Frustrated motorists steupsed behind the wheel as they crawled along the murky brown highway-cum-river. Who is to blame for this sad state of affairs? We are. We fling our empty beverage bottles on the ground. These bottles eventually choke our waterways, leading to the flash flooding we have been experiencing lately.

T&T got its chance to make a difference on the weekend when International Coastal Clean up (ICC) commenced on Saturday at eight beaches in Trinidad.

We can help. Since 1986, every third Saturday in September, Ocean Conservancy co-ordinates an ICC. This is the largest one-day clean up and data collection event in the world. Last year, more than 378,000 persons from 76 countries volunteered to pick up trash. They removed more than six million pounds of debris from over 33,000 miles of shoreline.

Next weekend, on Saturday, the ICC moves to Tobago.

Locally, the message seems to be catching on. Last year, 1,250 volunteers cleaned up 12 beaches, up from 894 in 2006. They removed over 30,000 pounds of trash. In Plymouth, Tobago, divers retrieved 81.9 pounds of garbage, including tyres, from ten miles of seabed. Zakiya Uzoma Wadada, of the Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD) which co-ordinates the National Planning Committee, indicates that media coverage has helped to encourage a larger turnout of volunteers.

Since 2002, T&T has been part of the global effort, initially cleaning up two or three beaches. In 2008, the Committee is targeting 13 locations. Wadada says this year, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chose additional sites on the island because of a greater need there. Every year, the Committee tries to encompass a different part of T&T while maintaining the older sites.

Wadada said, “We have a plastic bottle menace at this particular point in time.” Ocean Conservancy’s 2007 report concludes that in T&T, plastic beverage bottles take the number one spot on the list of debris items collected. Last year, over 20,000 plastic beverage bottles were collected locally, almost tripling the number retrieved in 2004. Styrofoam cups and plates came in second, followed by bottle caps and lids.

How do we deal with this problem? Wadada advocates collaboration between the state and the private sector to get the bottles “out of the system.” This year, bottle recycling companies, Piranha International and Carib Glass have joined the effort.

Wadada stresses, “We are past the stage of planning. We need to implement. We have to do something. It is a crucial matter for small island states since solid waste management is more important for us than in a big city. They have more space to play around with.” She sees hope in the Beverage Container Bill which provides incentives for the recycling and reusing of beverage bottles.

In July, at government’s consultative talks with stakeholders, bottle manufacturers requested that the bill include alcohol, wine and spirit bottles.

So to all you green activists, Ocean Conservancy says, “You can’t go green unless you live blue.” Make a step in the right direction. On September 27, don some old clothes and help clean our beaches.