Tracy Guerrero has built herself a reputation over the last two or three years as the ‘mad straw lady’. Since we launched the ‘Straws on Request’ signs at Antigua Sailing Week, she singlehandedly took on the project and kept it going year round. She is relentless in her feedback to bars and restaurants, staff and owners, and is regularly frustrated that habits are taking so long to change. What we see however is a lady whose passion to do something about the seemingly never ending flow of plastic pollution is actually really starting to gain ground and make an impact. Tracy is the director with responsibility for Environmental Matters for the Antigua and Barbuda Marine Association so we asked Tracy to give us an update on where her thoughts are on our progress and what is coming next.
Tracy Guerrero: Having been asked to write an article on environmental/green things for the Yachting Insider, I had to stop and really think about what to say because how to live greener/protect the ocean and environment seems like a never ending circle and one where you can’t see the wood for the trees. A lot of us think we are doing our bit if we recycle, but are we! What happens to recycling - the plastic, cardboard, paper, tins, bottles etc? Some of it will be reused/repurposed but a lot of it can’t or isn’t. We all know that China no longer wants everyone elses recycling so who does? Where does it go now? What happens to it? Do any of us know? Don’t get me wrong, recycling is great but we have to do more, we have to do better and we all need to reduce what we use.
I’m sure many of us have had numerous conversations with all sorts of people and read lots of FB posts about saving the planet; the ocean; wildlife; marine life and conserving what we have for generations to come, I know I have and I realise we can’t keep going as we are. We have become a world of want want want and so much ’stuff’ is made of things that will be here longer than us! How crazy is that!!! Plastic - straws (the bane of my life!) plastic cups, shampoo/conditioner bottles; washing up liquid; juice & milk bottles etc etc etc. In addition, so many things are now available in small sachets - which is great on the one hand as it keeps the cost down and enables people to have more choice but how many millions of plastic sachets are now sitting around - we need to come up with viable alternatives.
Something that really made me sit up and think was while watching the BBC 1 programme ‘Drowning in Plastic’ and seeing villagers throwing their rubbish over the river bank and burning it. They have done this for hundreds of years apparently, but now their rubbish isn't natural so it doesn’t disintegrate into the earth but they have no where else to put it, so they continue to do what they have always done
Here in Antigua, and stating the obvious, we are a small island surrounded by water. We don’t have an all singing, all dancing waste management system, we don’t have the infrascture to always safely and environmentally dispose of our ‘waste’ but our Ministry of Health and Environment are spearheading numerous projects to clean up the island - we were one of the first Caribbean islands to ban single use plastic bags and polystyrene in all shapes and sizes. We also have a growing number of entrepenuers who are working hard in the recycling/repurposing field and the ABMA has all their info on the website http://abma.ag/2018/03/recycling-reusing-repurposing-here-in-antigua-barbuda/. The ABMA and ASW work together throughout the year to reduce the amount of straws that are used and encourage recycling during the major regattas and events, but there is so much more that needs to be done and can be done.
If you would like to be part of creating and finding solutions for Antigua and helping bring positive change to our environment, or if you have simple things you are doing in your life to reduce your carbon footprint that you would like us to share, get in touch with email@example.com.
If you need inspiration to question our daily use of plastics, check out the trailer for the BBC Programme, Drowning in Plastic.