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  • Writer's pictureYashoda Singh

Connecting the Dots...From Ridge to Reef

Members of the plenary sessions at Day 2 of Conference

This two day conference held by the Adopt a River Programme (AARP) was aptly titled "Connecting the Dots...from ridge to reef". The circular connection saw the likes of GEF SGP UNDP, Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD), Marine Environment Education Programme (MEEPTT), Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), the Green Fund (GF) and Water Resources Agency (WRA), Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL), Massy Stores, Caribbean Bottlers TT (Coca-Cola), and Carib Glassworks Ltd (CGL).

Did you know that there are tiny particles of plastics everywhere?

In our water, the food we eat and drink? While there is an increase among the youth about solid waste pollution and their participation in cleanup efforts (in 2018, over 3,000 volunteers participated in beach cleanup), the #MEEPTT reported more is needed.

The CNIRD created a program called MEEPTT, whose main goal focuses on the reduction of marine debris pollution in T&T. The primary beneficiaries targeted in the proposed project are students and children. You can volunteer in these programs by contacting them on social media at the links: CNIRD, MEEPTT, ICC. Additionally, you can become a water warrior via the AARP. Get your kids involved!

Each One Teach One

We are a nation of innovation and creativity. Can you believe that the Mucurapo West Secondary School has already begun using used tires as their seats? Those students are probably miles ahead in business and science classes we speak!

Speak with your teachers and principals to see how you can make this happen at your school. You can even explore coordinating beach cleanups. This is the direction that we need to go to ensure that our drains are not blocked when rain falls as was the reality during the floods in October, 2018.

These are the little ways individuals can form groups and make a difference.

“Each One Teach One” should be your motto #EachOneTeachOne

Even though we are a people driven by a culture of pollution (you know it’s true as the proof is in the pudding as shown in the pictures and videos shared during the last floods), there are positive advancements that have begun to happen. Why not invest in the option seen in the second pic? This net shows how Australia prevents storm drain trash from reaching the rivers, lakes and oceans

Just think we are finally at a point whereby there is an expansion of the recycling program by SWMCOL. In the public sector there are 12 ministries with recycling bins (to expand to other ministries) with the hope that the public servants can have a better appreciation of recycling.

This initiative is to be shared with the private sector in the coming period said Mr. Roach, C.E.O of SWMCOL. He completed his presentation with a push for the #BeverageBill as the large amount of bottles found during the recent floods have shown how pervasive our littering is as a population.

Plans for the future

We’ve had some extreme shockers this year boy. Wow! I don’t think any Trinis believed that their house would have been under 5 feet of water and would lose everything down to their toothbrush...just in time for the Christmas season. #Preparation #Volunteerism

Positives to this were the kindness and assistance they received from strangers in their darkest time of need. In a lot of ways it plays testament to who we are as a people and what does it say? There is still hope for us, as our motto “Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve”, is one that we live and act upon despite the odds.

The following were tidbits and positive changes we can look forward too:

  • Dr Gowrie from the Ministry of Planning spoke about the Vision 2030 with specific emphasis on theme V – “Placing the Environment at the Centre of Social and Economic Development”

  • The representative from the Ocean Conservancy gave new findings from coastal cleanups worldwide, “There is a shift to single use plastic. In 2017, the data on the top 10 items collected in the world contained plastics. She urged everyone to keep doing what we are doing and to keep recording data, especially citizen’s scientist who are vitally important in this fight.

  • In Bali there is an initiative called Refill My Bottle which is an online map that identifies all the places - be it a cafe, resort, museum or shop - where re-fillers could walk in and fill up their bottle with clean drinkable water for free or a minimum fee. This speaks to private sector intervention and an innovative idea that provides drinking water and reducing consumption of plastic water bottles.

With the short attention span of everyone it’s like we have to have an elevator pitch for everything important and place it on advertising material like stickers, magnets, was a thought shared by one of the speakers.

The Value of the Beverage Bill

Dr. Mahabir noted that we have moved away from general litter to plastic litter and shared that the Glass bill was private sector driven.

This raised the question of,

Do we need the beverage bill?

(From L to R) SWMCOL, Ministry of Planning, AARP

Mr. Roach responded that while glass has an intrinsic value, plastic does not. Currently, waste disposal is free so businesses are not charged a fee for disposal. The bill can address these issues.

Another question was posed about commercializing the recycling process in order to help move the bill but it was identified that plastic is too light with a phenomenal cost of collection. There is a need for legislation for manufacturers to create recycled items and to offer incentives to encourage #recycling and #upcycling (another variation on recycling, involves the creation of usable products from waste materials or unwanted items).

We need to remember that plastic was the environmental solution suggested years ago and now we need to be mindful of its consumption.

Staggering figures shared by the panelist of over a million bottles per day gives an idea of how much water bottles are generated a month in T&T

Dr. Gowrie said we need alternatives to plastic and little things such as not using water bottles unless necessary such as during the floods, can change our culture. Furthermore, info needs to be disseminated quicker to younger people and everyone needs to value our environment.

The founder of the AARP’s, Mr. Clement’s watchwords “increased coordination, public awareness and education”, is the way forward.

Change is constant and change is good. All we need to do now is to work on our consistency.

Private Sector Interventions

A panelist of members from the private sector shared their initiatives and waste management procedures.


Green Initiatives

Mr Jagrup, Coke rep spoke about their water bottles being 30% plant based and educating consumers about proper solid waste disposal. They are currently endorsing upcycling projects like fences and jewelry making and are committed to AAR’s goals of spreading awareness to schools and cleanup programs.

The Role of Coca-Cola

The role of the private sector is one that is looking at incentives similar to Massy’s reverse vending machines.

Massy Stores

The C.E.O of Massy Stores, Mr. Winford spoke about the business of single use packaging with the largest being plastic bags at 34 million annually.

Green Initiatives

He commented on Massy’s Green initiative and the 50 cent deterrent fee. Initially, they gave away the bags and as of last week $500,000 worth of bags were given away, with the goal of 1 million dollars’ worth of bags in the future. They also introduced reverse vending machines in three of their outlets (Alyce Glen, Westmoorings, and Maraval branches) which gives the persons who deposit their plastic bottles Massy points. A drastic reduction was realized with monthly figures of 5,000 plastic bags since the inception of the initiative in May, 2018.

The Role of Massy

Mr. Winford agreed that the role of the private sector would be to provide incentives for recycling. He shared that Arawak was working on replacing the Styrofoam used in their trays with something more environmentally friendly and the same is being done about their fruits and vegetables section. This will however result in an increase in cost to the consumer.

Carib Glassworks Ltd

Green Initiatives

Their rep reported that all food and beverage glass is recycled and incentives are given to those persons who drop off glass to their compound. This is not the case for those that are deposited in their bins or collected by their drivers. She indicated that only 10% of glass that goes out comes back in with foraging being carried out at dump sites to recover some.

The Role of CGL

The role of the private sector is to get people to put glass at the household levels in the respective recycling bins.

Looking for extra cash? Here’s how – Save your glass bottles and take to #CGL!

Waste Generation and How the Private Sector Treats With It

  • Cardboard was reported as being the major waste generated at Massy Stores and Mr. Winford indicated that most of it is being exported.

  • CGL reported that SWMCOL and other recycling companies take all their waste.

  • Coca-Cola rep reported that their solid and liquid waste was being dealt with as the liquid goes through their water treatment plant and they are looking to recycle this in the future. Solid waste such as their cardboard have been reduced and their plastic waste such as expired products are sent to different recyclers with some being upcycled.

Minister of Public Utilities Commends AARP

Senator the Honourable Robert Le Hunte, the Minister of Public Utilities

Senator, the Honourable Robert Le Hunte, the Minister of Public Utilities, spoke about having a scarcity of water during the rainy season due to the shutdown of many treatment plants. He commended the AARP for assisting in sharing awareness and filling in the missing links via education.

Linkages need to be made in order to understand why you don’t have water, stated the Minister.

He agreed that legislation is necessary and that a draft of the Beverage Bill was passed on to the AG and should be brought to Parliament by the end of 2018. Cultural changes are critical in how we deal with waste and water, stated the Minister in his closing remarks.

Keeping T&T Clean: the local perspective and the way forward

Third plenary session "Keeping T&T Clean: the local perspective

The only thing we recycle in T&T is glass and the term recycling is used loosely as we are generally collectors of recyclable items. Ms. Vandana stated that while the ban on the importation of Styrofoam in 2019 is a step in the right direction, local producers may fill the gap. She placed emphasis on ‘#Refuse’ being an important R in the #3R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).

The concept of #composting is an organic form of recycling and helps cleanup the recycling stream.

This creates a circular economy. A question was asked about #ZeroWaste and Ms. Vandana shared that people need to know their own power. If single actions become daily habits such as taking your coffee cup to places like Rituals, then we have begun a conversation that may initially be awkward but can spark change. This is the power of the consumer.

What are your thoughts on the info shared in this article?

Please share so that others can be in the know.

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