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Fighting plastic pollution on all fronts

Published: 
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

It is ironic that as T&T joins in observances of World Environment Day today, particularly with this year’s theme, Beat Plastic Pollution, the Beverage Containers Bill, a vital piece of legislation for battling that problem, is yet to be debated and passed

The most recent version of that long-promised law, aimed at alleviating T&T’s chronic plastic pollution problem, was introduced for debate by then Environment Minister Ganga Singh in late November 2012 but by July of the following year, it had lapsed. Disappointingly, it hasn’t seen the light of day since.

The legislation provides for the establishment of a Beverage Containers Advisory Board and a deposit refund system for beverage containers, as well as a regime for their collection and disposal.

It is not hard to see how that law alone could make a difference in T&T’s environment. There is hardly a watercourse in this country that isn’t clogged with plastic and glass bottles and other waste. With the rainy season now upon us, all of this plastic pollution will contribute to flash floods, with accompanying destruction and losses.

Apart from the failure to enact that legislation, lack of enforcement of litter and other related laws mean very little is being done to deter or penalise people who wantonly dump waste in waterways and open spaces.

In short, we are failing on many levels to protect and clean up the delicate, natural environment of our two small islands and there will be severe consequences—already seen in flooding, destructive landslides, coastal erosion, pollution of the marine environment and other disastrous occurrences.

Plastic takes nearly a thousand years to disintegrate, posing significant health risks, causing contamination and endangering wildlife.

That is why this World Environment Day should be a call to action for citizens to play their part in creating a cleaner and greener T&T. Individuals can take charge of their surroundings and be more conscious of the dangers of using plastic in daily life.

It would also be useful to support the efforts of two major retailers—PriceSmart and Massy Stores— who have eliminated plastic bags and encourage customers to pack their purchases in reuseable shopping bags.

Guardian Media Limited is also doing its part. Since paper constitutes the bulk of the waste from our daily production, the company has embarked on a major recycling initiative aimed at significantly reducing its carbon footprint. In addition, every newspaper today includes packets of seeds which we encourage our readers to plant in an effort to increase green spaces across our twin islands.

Let us all reduce, reuse and recycle.

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