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Tuesday 5th June 2018

By Alison Sly-Adams

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the problem of garbage is not just localised to Antigua. Every time you login to your favourite social media channel there it is! Today is World Environment Day, I discovered last night, and the hashtag is #BeatPlasticPollution.

So, my question for the day is what are you doing about it? Are you attempting to minimise your carbon footprint, or are you waiting for your government to legislate you into it? It’s an interesting phenomenon and perhaps more polarising in the Caribbean than many places, just because of the nature of our islands and size of our community, that we seem to need to wait to be told it's not legal before we stop it. And of course, there are many in society who wouldn’t let a good law get in the way of a nasty habit.

Of course, by the nature of how our leaders have grown their power bases, there is the ‘Come to me, I will fix it syndrome.’ Fix what you may ask? Everything, from your duty free to your child’s hospital bill, to yes….even making Antiguanice……………………………brakes! Say what! Yup, making Antiguanice. But the flipside of that, is that if your leaders have built themselves up to be the solvers of every problem, they might just get what they ask for, people who expect them to do everything.

Well guess what, my Antigua is nice already and more importantly I don’t need to wait for someone in power. I’m not just talking about politicians but leaders of industry, leaders of the community, leaders of your religion, leaders in my family, to tell me when I should or shouldn’t do something. The reason, it’s a matter of personal pride. Perhaps it was my Mom, my education. I got lucky and lived in a community who had a huge sense of pride in its surroundings, not moneyed, but proud. Possibly too proud sometimes, but the sense of community in that ‘proud’ is an unbottled wonder of life. And that is what I hope, many more people than I felt over this last weekend in Antigua.

It is human nature for us to want to feel part of something, and even for the relatively short space of time I bent down and picked up someone else’s garbage, and am still suffering the aches and pains because of it, I felt like I was achieving something for the greater good. I still had a fun weekend, still hung out with my friends, but I achieved something….….other.

And now each day I join my peers on social media sharing our thoughts and ignoring the critics. The people who say it could have been better organised, should have had all the schools out, should be ongoing (how do we know it's not yet, we just did it), the criticism goes on and on. I will allow people to feel vexed all they like, maybe that’s just what they do. I just feel happy I was part of the clean-up and want to hold on to the positive vibes a little longer.

And to those people in our community specifically Tracy Guerrero, Eloise Green, Jasiel Murphy and Jennifer Joseph who spent hours of their good lives in meetings as part of the technical committee, a huge thank you for all of your efforts. It definitely paid off.

So what comes next other than more vexation. A few of my own thoughts on the matter about what we can all be doing:

  1. Start thinking reuse not recycle - Try and remember your reusable cup to get coffee at your favourite coffee shop. Even if they are offering recyclable cups, next step is no cups.
  2. If you own the coffee bar why not work out a discount for those people who do the above. It will get you big brownie points from a lot of your clients and heck, it might even drive additional business.
  3. Do the same if you are a restaurant. A spot I go to regularly is using a re-usable takeout container. How about adding a dollar to the bill for the container (or whatever it costs) and offering me the dollar back if I bring it back to you (washed of course).
  4. Refuse straws or take your own reusable one. Restaurant owners please invest in reusable stirrers to replace those awful little red straws and beach restaurants – just ban them all together please.
  5. Get your own re-usable knife and fork and walk with it. Actually, hilariously we all have these already, they are in our cutlery drawers at home. I bet you have a pair that are the last in a set, the rest of which have mysteriously disappeared. Find yourself a little bag and walk with it and refuse plastics when buying takeaway food. Plastic knives, forks and spoons are on the banned import list anyway so stocks are running out.
  6. Always take a garbage bag with you to the beach – and clean up around you, even if someone else left the garbage behind.
  7. If you own a bar or restaurant it’s definitely time to replace those single use plastics. If you want to save money, start charging a dollar for the reusable cup in the first drink you serve, and give the dollar back if someone returns the cup.
  8. Check out the loads of different ways you could be supporting businesses who are environmentally focussed and offering services that help you to be. This is a great article written by Tracy Guerrero, ABMA Environmental director which includes information not just on recycling plastics and aluminium but an update on ABWREC and what they are recycling, where you can take your electronics, scrap metal, cars, batteries, building materials, and also how to easily compost.
  9. Do NOT throw your garden waste on someone else’s land. I don’t care if it bio-degrades, it looks like garbage and attracts others to fly tip. Compost on YOUR land or bag it up and get National Solid Waste to pick it up.
  10. DO call National Solid Waste for all and any bulk waste. The hotline number is 562-1347 or Mr Bailey, 727-2439. There are still some areas who have yet to get their Bulk Waste pick up as part of #Cleanup268, but even after they are there year round. Use them.

Oh why am I angry? Well that was a little bit of click bait but also even despite the positivity I felt being part of the community, there is no doubt, at the point that you realise so much of the littering is deliberate acts from people, that can get under even the biggest optimist's skin. People throwing cans out of cars as far away from the verge as they can, so that they can’t be seen; People taking money from honest citizens to take away their waste, and fly tipping it; People who go to the beach with food and drink and leave their waste for others. You are the problem, you are what makes our world a frustrating place to live in. But on balance, I truly believe there is enough will, and where there is a will, you know the saying, there is a way. Good people will overcome the filthy ones, and the filthy ones, well, let's hope the fines do come into play, and perhaps the embarrassment of community service in brightly coloured clothes for the offenders is the right suggestion. That would be a great new spectator sport!!!

And by the way, I still have a long way to go myself. A lot of this stuff is about breaking a lifetime of habits. So if you see me with my takeaway coffee from Seabreeze don’t crow! I know I need to do better, and I am trying, very much trying!

Photo credit: Rana-Jamila Lewis

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