Sunday 21 April, 2019

Watch: Caribbean causing floating trash island near Honduras

A mountain of floating trash in the waters off Honduras was created by Caribbean citizens.

Environmentalist and tour company owner in Trinidad and Tobago, Courtenay Rooks said to LoopTT, that the video footage, which was taken by photographer Caroline Powers in October 2017, showed pieces of garbage coming from various Caribbean islands, including Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and that twin island republic.

The footage showed over five miles of floating garbage in the middle of the ocean which consisted of disposable plastic forks, bottles, Styrofoam containers, plastic bags and much more. 

"It's our garbage, it's the whole Caribbean's garbage. From what I understand, someone noted things that they saw there, and the labels showed that some of the items were from the Dominican Republic, from Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and even from Trinidad and Tobago."

 

Rooks said that this sea of garbage is just the beginning and is a warning call for Caribbean people change their habits regarding the use of plastic.

"This is a warning call, and I'm being polite because really and truly it's much more than that. We must take action now because if we wait until it is worse, then it will be too late."

Rooks said just that morning, he visited the Licensing Office and saw an officer tossing a cigarette butt onto the ground, just a few metres away from a dustbin. 

"I saw the officer in uniform smoke a cigarette and then toss the cigarette butt onto the ground, right on the compound. We need to change our culture toward recycling and pollution," he said. 

 

Lives at risk because of pollution

Rooks said ultimately if pollution continues it will be citizens who suffer.

"The thing is, we are polluting ourselves. Studies have shown that where marine pollution occurs, there are less fish than there used to be. This garbage is photo-degrading, which means it is breaking down into smaller and smaller components, which in turn are being eaten by fish, and we are eating those fish."

"There are a lot of things we don't even know yet about how it gets into our food, is it in our farmed food (via runoff from leached chemicals)? Is it airborne? We don't even know."

"It makes no sense to wait until later down the line we realise that so many cancers caused in the past 20 years is connected to these plastics," he said. 

Rooks, who has recently launched an eco-health project called Bush Mountain TT, said the power is in our hands to change our attitudes to recycling and plastic usage.

"There's no sense in us waiting to say 'Oh my God, it's too late', we need to act now. Look at what's happening with the effect of Sargassum seaweed on our coastlines and the effect on turtle nesting habits. Climate change is happening worldwide."

"We don't look at the consequences of our consumption, it is our attitude, we need to change our attitude towards ourselves and our health, and you can only be truly healthy within yourself if you have a healthy attitude towards nature and the environment. Once you have a healthy attitude towards nature and ourselves, then we will be truly nourished," he said.

Rooks said that the public initiatives such as SWMCOL's plastic recycling initiative is a good start but much more is needed.

"There must be dynamic education to change awareness and culture, it has to be creative campaigns that look at the reality of what's going on and must involve outreach initiatives where we go into the communities themselves and talk to the influencers in these communities, so we can look at how we deal with our health and the health of the environment," he said. 

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Powers, whose photos went viral in October 2017, urged the public to re-think their use of plastic.

“This has to stop. Think about your daily lives. How did you take your food to go last time you ate out? How was your last street food served? Chances are it was styrofoam and served with a plastic fork and then put in a plastic bag. Do you still use plastic garbage bags? Plastic soda bottles? Ziplock bags? Plastic wrap on your food?

“Do you buy toilet paper that comes wrapped in plastic instead of paper? Do you put your fruit and veggies in produce bags at the grocery?

“I challenge every person and every business to keep your trash for one week. Separate your organic and recyclables and keep everything else for one week. You will be disgusted how many single use items you use," she said. 

 

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