Urgently Needed: An End to Plastic Pollution
On Sunday, April 22, 2018, the international community collectively celebrated Earth Day, under the theme “End Plastic Pollution”. In Saint Lucia, volunteers came together to participate in activities which celebrate the Earth and advocate for sustainability and a reduction in plastic pollution.
The morning’s activities started off with a clean-up of the coastal areas of the Pigeon Island National Landmark (PINL), the Pigeon Island Causeway and Seabed off PINL from Beach 1 to the cemetery. This was coordinated by the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) in collaboration with Sandals Resorts Saint Lucia and Sea Adventures Inc., aided by volunteers comprising of SLNT members and staff, The Landings staff, Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) Saint Lucia members and Saint Joseph’s Convent students. The group on the Causeway had picked up a significant amount of litter, much of which was unsurprisingly made of plastic. Additionally, the sea-based clean-up crew which consisted of divers from Sea Adventures Inc. and Sandals Resorts, collected several bags of garbage. In all, 70 bags of garbage were collected on land, and 92 bottles and 22 pieces of plastic were collected in the ocean.
Cleaning up the Pigeon Island area is an effective way to reduce on the amount of litter and plastic waste temporarily, however, it is far from the most efficient long-term solution. Despite the clean-ups and environmental education campaigns, the areas continue to be polluted within a matter of days, and the problem continues to exist. In the absence of greater, more influential action, like legislation or physical structures in place to address the issue, it will persist as it has been doing for decades.
It is regrettable that the Saint Lucian society has allowed a culture of littering and disregard for the environment to grow to the point where persons brazenly throw trash out of vehicle windows, into the streets, into the water and into the bushes, expecting that once it is out of their hands, it is no longer a problem and will not affect them. This is far from the case, however, as this trash ends up clogging drains which leads to flooding, collecting in rivers and affect water quality, and being deposited in the oceans where it harms marine life, leading to reduced populations of fish and turtles. These are just a few of the effects of improper garbage disposal, which is why more impactful steps need to be taken. In the meantime, volunteers will come together to clean up these areas and play their part in reducing the amount of improperly disposed garbage in the environment.
In the evening on Earth Day, the Saint Lucia National Trust, with the support of Massy Stores Saint Lucia, hosted Sòlèy Kouché at Pigeon Island National Landmark (PINL) and in Soufriere, where a candle light procession from the Primary School to the Soufriere Waterfront took place. Speakers at the Soufriere venue SLNT Councilor, Nadia Cazaubon and Michael Bobb of the Soufriere Marine Management Area, painted a clear picture of the need to address the issue of plastic pollution and implications it has on our marine ecosystem and humans. Meanwhile, the feature speaker at the PINL venue, Ms. Yvonne Edwin from the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, delivered an insightful address, quoting statistics showing how dire the situation of plastic pollution in the oceans will become within a few decades if left unaddressed. Ms. Megumi Kawaguchi, a Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Volunteer, also delivered a thought-provoking, interactive address, prompting the audience to think about how many plastic products they used each day. Another address was given by Laurah John from Jua Kali Ltd., who pointed out that Saint Lucians are ready for a new environmental movement, as many played their part during the resource recovery pilot programme, by bringing in plastic and glass products which they had collected instead of throwing away, in the hope of disposing it in a more positive manner than just having it end up in a landfill.
One common message echoed by the speakers throughout the evening’s activity, was that each person has a part to play and should start making small personal changes toward a more sustainable future, then build on it over time. Whether that action is to carry a reusable bag to the supermarket instead of using plastic bags, or to use a reusable bottle instead of single-use plastic bottles, or even holding on to plastic products until it can be recycled, instead of throwing it in the trash right away, each action can make a big difference in securing a more sustainable future for ourselves and the generations to come. As the dance piece by Richard Ambrose Dance Theatre Project reiterated: We are all instrumental in keeping the Earth alive.