What will it take to get some Barbadians to recognize and accept that it is their responsibility — not somebody else’s — to ensure proper disposal of the garbage which they generate?
Over the years, authorities have repeatedly warned about the threats to public health and other risks associated with illegal dumping. However, in a clear sign that these warnings have generally fallen on deaf ears, the problem keeps growing.
Take a drive around the island and you will find almost ubiquitous evidence of indiscriminate dumping. The first observation most likely to be made would be roadsides littered with fast food containers that were tossed from moving vehicles.
In some places where there are no houses nearby and plots of land are overgrown with bush, it is common to find old mattresses, stoves, television sets or construction debris. Sometimes, there is even the rotting carcass of a dead animal.
What more can be done to put an end to this vexing problem which is causing untold damage to the natural environment, especially the gullies and beautiful beaches, and despoiling the pristine image of Barbados which we use to attract visitors to our shores?
We believe, based on observation and also news reports, that the problem has now reached a point where the authorities must do more than issue stern warnings. Examples must be made of offenders to send a strong message that illegal dumping is definitely not the way to go.
Maybe, a suitable punishment could involve not only making offenders clean up their mess but also other places nearby and have them do so in full public view which obviously would be a humiliating experience. Whatever is done, the point is that a strong message of zero tolerance needs to be sent.
Coconut vendors who leave piles of empty shells by the roadside for days sometimes after plying their trade, have received considerable flack recently over the practice. Such callousness was exemplified last week when bags of rotting coconut shells were reportedly deposited next to a bus shelter along the busy Wildey, St Michael area.
There are some coconut vendors – such as two who operate next to the Deighton Griffith School on Sundays – whose practices are exemplary. They ply their trade and thoroughly clean up the area, leaving it as they found it. This standard should apply across the board to all coconut vendors.
We appreciate that the so-called “small man”, as some coconut vendors may be inclined to describe themselves, need to earn a living like everybody else. However, in doing so, they must not create an inconvenience for the general public which would be tantamount to an act of social irresponsibility.
Sanitation Service Authority spokesman, Carl Alff Padmore, made a valid point last week. Responding to some coconut vendors who argued that the $25 tipping fee is a financial burden and contributes to shells being left by the roadside, he said this cost to dispose of the shells at the Mangrove landfill really amounts to the price of two bottles of coconut water.
The widespread practice of littering speaks to a deeper underlying problem. It is a reflection that Barbadians are no taking pride in themselves and their surroundings as was the case with past generations. Indeed, a common saying back then was that “cleanliness is next to godliness”.
Littering is also a reflection that as a people, we have become pretty selfish with little concern for our fellowman. We live in a world today where the individual takes precedence over the community. In years gone-by, it was the other way around. It was community before self.
Reflecting this concern for the welfare of the community, a resident would dispose of an animal if it was killed by a passing vehicle in the road outside his home, even if the animal did not belong to him. Today, it stays sometimes until SSA workers arrive to dispose of the carcass.
As adults generally tend to be set in their ways, perhaps we need as a society to focus on upcoming generations to eventually beat the problem by revisiting the idea of introducing sanitation to children in our schools from a young age, especially if this is not happening in the home.
In primary schools many years ago, children were given responsibility for keeping their school surroundings clean. This task was not left entirely to the janitor. At the end of every term, for example, children scrubbed the desks they occupied. This experience served them in good stead by instilling the important value that cleanliness is a personal responsibility to be exercised throughout life.
A cleaner Barbados is therefore not a task for Government alone. It really begins with and can be achieved through the actions of everyone.