We aid in the destruction of our environment by tossing away indiscriminately just one plastic fork, one plastic cup or one Styrofoam container. Have you ever driven behind another vehicle and watched as the occupants carelessly threw from their windows empty fast food containers, empty pep bottles or other forms of garbage?
I have witnessed, in horror many times, as persons just randomly toss their garbage onto the road or path they were travelling on. I have seen persons employed by Government to clean the sidewalks throw their pep bottles into the gutter where they were working. I mentioned last year that I saw participants in the Breast Cancer Walk throwing the plastic water cups indiscriminately along the route. A subsequent heavy shower of rain washed these cups down an already clogged drain. Walking for healthier Barbados but destroying the environment in the process
I travelled around Barbados quite a bit as Barbados is a beautiful island with many wonderful places to explore, but it sickens me to see the amount of plastic and other garbage just strewn all over the place, especially at many of the popular picnic spots. I was saddened that even on an Atlantis Submarine tour I observed plastic bags stuck to our precious reefs meters below our waters.
If an individual is not the slightest bothered about anything I have described above then something is fundamentally wrong. I have taught my children from a very young age never to throw away garbage willy-nilly, find a garbage bag or can and put it where it belongs. How can anyone with a conscious just randomly throw garbage through a moving vehicle window? Do they every stop to consider where that garbage is ending up?
Some say that it is a culture we have to break. Well there is nothing cultured about throwing away garbage all over the place. We have a problem and we have to tackle it head-on.
I fully support the Government’s initiative to ban the use of plastics in its varied forms. I know that it is virtually impossible to ban all plastics because literally every single item we use has some form of plastic associated with it. But we have to start somewhere, and if it is the ‘low hanging fruits’ then that is the best place to start. I accept also that Government should try to phase in the prohibitions and give businesses enough time to get their act together. I expect that this entire exercise in bringing Barbados in line with being an eco-friendly environment will require a huge re-calibration of thinking, habits and mindset. It can’t happen overnight, but it has to happen.
The world has a major problem with the use of plastics that do not degrade. Take time to view the numerous documentaries and findings that show the destruction brought about by the non-degradable plastics that have ended up in our land, on our shores and in our seas. Watch the horror that marine and other species of our animal kingdom face with all this plastic waste polluting their environments. Every day an image pops up on my social media showing another heart wrenching picture of a sea-turtle, a whale or some other mammal or animal killed or maimed by plastic waste.
The 2006 award-winning computer-animated comedy ‘Happy Feet’ features a rockhopper penguin with the plastic rings of a six pack entangled around his neck. The character ‘Lovelace’ claims this plastic ring around his neck was bestowed upon him by mystic beings. As the movie progresses and Lovelace gets fatter the plastic tightens around his neck choking him. This animated film highlights quite vividly the reality faced by many of the sea creatures in our oceans today. Whales washing up with car parts and plastic waste in their stomachs. Sea turtles dying from ingesting plastic waste and the list goes on.
I salute all those individuals and groups who recognize the urgent need to alert, inform, sensitize and get action on this critical issue. I saw a well put-together animated infomercial by ‘Waste o Resources Trust’. This animation goes through the different life cycles of three plastic bottles and the effect each one has on the environment of Barbados. It is impactful in showing the way in which plastic products make a significant effect on the environment.
In addition, this infomercial gives us the startling numbers on plastics in Barbados. 140,000 pounds of plastic straws, 150,000 pounds of plastic cups, and 100 million plastic bags are imported into Barbados on a yearly basis. This plastic is non-degradable, so where does it end up when we discard it? Watch the infomercial and see where it goes if we throw them away in three different ways.
Government has announced that the importation, retail, sale and use of petro-based, single-use plastic will no longer be allowed in Barbados. Products made from petroleum, such as single-use plastic cutlery, plastic cups, straws and Styrofoam containers among several other plastic products will be banned from April 1.
Undoubtedly, plastics revolutionized the way human beings could do things and create things. It led to many inventions and made life much easier for the world in many ways. Those who got into the plastics industry made billions. But human beings are prone to get excessive and sadly we destroy our precious environment and eco-systems by our insatiable desires. Our generation and succeeding generations will inherit the destruction brought about by such indiscriminate actions. What our generation must now do is undo or at least repair the damage done if we are to leave the world a better place for our grandchildren.
I understand that there is much research now into alternatives to plastics as we know it. Also there are alternatives becoming readily available that allow for plastics to be bio-degradable. I guess it is a never-ending cycle of create and re-create to get us to that point that we have a product that is least harmful to our eco-systems.
Dealing with the human mind and human habits will be the toughest fight but that battle must be waged if we are indeed hoping to create a better world for our future generations.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)