The thirst is real; plastic drink bottles top Caribbean marine garbage
The heat has been quite unbearable for more than a year, which marked the hottest 14 consecutive months on record. Could this be why the marine debris generated from the beverage industry topped the 2015 finds during the Caribbean segment of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)?
In the recently released 2015 Trash Free Seas report of the Ocean Conservancy’s ICC, marine debris was removed from beaches in 16 Caribbean countries. Just over 36,000 citizen scientists removed about 400,000 pounds of solid waste from beaches and the marine environment.
From the table above, four out of the top five items originated from the beverage industry. Even more worrying, is that one-quarter of the plastic beverage bottles collected worldwide, came from the Caribbean. In addition, the amount of money that could have possibly been made through recycling these bottles alone could have paid for a small car (US$12,500), with just over 60 per cent of the bottles collected from Jamaica.
Furthermore, 60 per cent of the weight of marine debris collected in the region came from Guyana and Puerto Rico combined. On the other hand, in Guyana, there was a significantly higher density of 21,225 pounds per km, while in Puerto Rico, there were only 293 pounds per km. This means that more garbage was found in a smaller area in Guyana (4.8 km) than in Puerto Rico (410.1 km). That is extremely disquieting since none of the other countries could even get near to 10,000 pounds per km.
The ICC, the largest volunteer effort in the world and volunteers from service clubs, youth-led organizations such as the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) and government agencies coordinate the cleanups. Schools, and the public and private sector play their part in cleaning up the mess that others make. Not only do they rid the beaches of debris, but they also record the data that go into the reports.
The Impact of Littering
But why litter or dump? Some have the “not in my backyard” syndrome where, once their houses and yards are clean, they would not mind dumping their waste onto other persons’ properties. Some think it is convenient to litter rather than find a trash can. On the other hand, there are some countries with exorbitant taxes coupled with inadequate collection services and no recycling initiatives, which does not help the situation.
Another key point is that while littering and dumping can affect your own country, it could become problematic for others as well. This is because trash can travel along ocean currents and wash up on the coasts of other countries. Therefore, sometimes during cleanups, trash from other countries are found, especially on the east and south coasts of the Lesser Antilles.
All things considered, knowing and doing is not the same thing. Persons must realize that there is a cost to dumping and littering which they are already paying. When you dump or litter, you and other persons can become ill; you are paying for healthcare; you are paying for the cleanup services; you are paying for tourism maintenance; you are paying for cleaner safer water; and you are paying for educational programmes on the dangers of dumping and littering. So you choose. You can save or even gain money from not littering or dumping, or continue to waste your money.
By Jamilla Sealy
Jamilla Sealy has an educational background in Natural Resources and Environment Management and Climate Change and is the current Regional Chairperson of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN). She also teaches Environmental Science and is an active climate advocate.