In a March 2016 study, the World Bank reported that Trinidad and Tobago produced 14.4 kg of municipal solid waste per capita, which is among the highest in the world. Since 2012 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has been considering the Beverage Containers Bill which would initiate a “deposit and refund type system” for glass and plastic bottles. The main purpose of this bill is to address the continuous irresponsible disposal of plastic bottles in Trinidad & Tobago.
A non-governmental organization called the “Greenlight Network,” commissioned an initiative called the Plastikeep Community Recycling Programme. The programme was developed over a decade ago with corporate and private donations as well as dedicated funding by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago Green Fund. Their mission is to raise awareness of the proper management of plastic waste, encouraging community participation and building a recycling capacity in Trinidad. Subsequently in 2016, the founder and director Rosanna Farmer announced that the project faced imminent closure due to the lack of adequate funding available and therefore it cannot continue to operate.
There has been a lot of comments in the media of late surrounding the way forward for Plastikeep. In a Newsday article dated 2nd December 2017, Ms. Farmer noted, that the project “was never meant to be a sustainable business, but a community project as envisioned by the Green Fund.” In December 2017, Plastikeep commenced the removal of the recycling bins from its various locations, including Massy Stores, who had temporarily, offered its assistance to prolong the project. The question remains how can Trinidad & Tobago work together to create a long term plan for waste disposal? Everyone must play a part of this process, the government, companies and all citizens of this.
Legislative frameworks would need to be established, new allocations for landfills, innovative ways for collection and disposal integrated into our daily lives is the only way for this to work. We must change our attitude and the way we view ‘garbage’.Waste offers a lot of opportunity for employment and earning revenue, this sector has much to be explored. Sustainable living, modern technology and new methods for managing solid waste has created tremendous potential in generating alternate revenue streams.
Development and progress of the recycling industry in T&T continues to be plagued by the pitfalls of planning, funding, manpower and will power. Managing our plastics is critical to the wellbeing of our nation, not only does it litter the landscape but it also harms wildlife, birds and marine life. It clogs our waterways, rivers and canals, which eventually cause disastrous levels of flooding during our rainy season. A Penn State University study lists the decomposition period for bottles as 500 years, plastic and other beverage containers range from 5 to 80 years.
Awareness and knowledge of the facts and figures associated with non-biodegradable products without a solid waste disposal solution, will not alleviate the downstream problems of pollution posed by plastics and glass bottles. In a commercial capacity, companies like Ace Recycling and Carib Glass Works supports a drive for the collection of cans, tetra packs and bottles which has been highly visible for some time in comparison to most other producers of high levels of solid and recyclable waste where is no planned or sustained recycling program. Reducing our bottle ‘bill’ and carbon footprint becomes more urgent on a daily basis, even with projects as relevant as Plastikeep.
As citizens of Trinidad & Tobago, we can do our part in the process by reducing unnecessary consumption, utilizing reusable bags and containers, separating our garbage (i.e. plastics vs bottles), creating composts for biodegradable waste, dispose of our nonbiodegradable waste and support recycling drives within our communities and neighbourhoods. Let’s start a recycling drive within your household, every step can change the future of our carbon footprint in T&T. We need a national recycling plan and until we find it, Trinidad & Tobago will encounter many environmental issues as a result of not managing our waste in a sustainable way.