Barbados’ natural beauty remains under threat.
It’s not only climate change and the inexcusable actions of the rich and powerful that have failed to take decisive action to limit harmful rising temperatures that will scar the face of a nation.
It is the actions of ordinary Barbadians and our embarrassing propensity to treat our paradise island with disrespect.
Garbage is a uniquely human problem. Yet with all the technology and sophistication of human civilisation, so many of us have yet to figure out that you can’t dump your waste just anywhere.
Witness the recent mounds of evidence unearthed by Cleanup Barbados following a national cleanup exercise last month.
More than 38.9 tonnes of garbage was removed from the environment, project coordinator of Cleanup Barbados, Ann Harding, reported.
On April 23, 30 groups of nearly 300 volunteers hit the streets and covered 25 locations across the island with the clean-up campaign. At 1st and 2nd Street Holetown alone, they collected 70 bags of mainly discarded bottles and caps as part of an initiative sponsored by the Future Centre Trust.
The largest cleanup effort was at an illegal dump at Bucks, St Thomas where over 66,000 pounds of garbage was removed by a team of 66 people that included the Barbados Defence Force, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Jose Y Jose Liquid and Solid Waste Management Inc.
They saw mattresses, fridges, stoves, piles of tyres, disposal masks, used clothing and waste of every kind. This does not have to be way to live.
Harding also warned that people were dumping in a gully near Weston St James, the site of a deadly flood in 1995. She also warned that similar practices at major waterways like the Bucks Gully, Jack-in-the-Box Gully and Blackman’s Bridge were laying the foundation for tragedy.
The Clean Up Barbados coordinator sounded the alarm that in most cases, the same offenders are seen dumping repeatedly.
She said: “People don’t realise how serious this is… They drive the trucks up to the bridge on a gully and just dump it over the edge of the bridge. That’s certainly easy for them to do, but it’s not easy for us to pull it back out of there. And these gullies are waterways… and disasters can happen.”
We can all continue to point fingers at the inadequacies of the Sanitation Service Authority which has been charged with the responsibility of solid waste management. And there is room for the agency to do better.
But at the root of this problem is personal responsibility.
We must accept that our waste is truly ours, and begin to make a difference in how we live and hopefully help others to do the same. It is mind-boggling that the SSA and volunteers often have to plead with the public to stop indiscriminate dumping when there are laws to punish offenders.
It’s tiring to let dumpers get away with their harmful practices.
Yet pledge after pledge to go after culprits and ensure they face the full brunt of the law never materialize.
How can we beam proudly at Prime Minister Mottley’s lobby on the world stage for the developed nations to assist small island developing states in their fight against climate change when we are littering our beaches and our fields and hills with impunity?
Barbados has to clean up its act. Litterbugs must be held accountable.
Recycling is another solution. While we have all welcomed recent new 65-gallon roll out garbage bins and 18-gallon recycling bins under the Residential Waste Collection Improvement Project spearheaded by the SSA and Prosource Limited, we are still to learn what’s holding up the recycling initiative.
Now is the time for the effort to reduce, reuse and recycle to take hold in our households and schools if we are stem the tide of trash that threatens to overwhelm this land we love.