Litter is a huge problem on Abaco and is becoming an ever more troublesome dilemma with dire consequences to resident’s livelihood. In order to try and address this issue, a meeting was held at the Friends of the Environment office on August 19 as a follow up to a previous anti-litter campaign meeting.
In addition to members of FRIENDS, persons present included members of the Rotary Club, Bahamas National Trust and other environmentally concerned citizens. The absence of representatives from any government departments, especially Environmental Health, was noted and regretted.
Kristin Williams, Executive Director of Friends, who chaired the meeting, opened by stating that this is an especially opportune time to hold a meeting since September is Coastal Clean Up month which gives added awareness.
Olivia Patterson, Program Coordinator for FRIENDS, gave a report regarding cleanups organized along the Ernest Dean Highway from the airport to the roundabout in Spring City in September 2013 and March 2014. Each piece of trash picked up was itemized and it was discovered that the litter primarily consisted of food and drink containers (i.e. beer bottles, soda cans, candy wrappers and Styrofoam containers etc.).
Although some cardboard boxes and larger items of trash were found having fallen off trucks heading to the dump the results showed that the majority of the trash originates from commuters travelling the highway and throwing litter out of their windows.
“The entire community needs to make an effort to improve waste management on Abaco. Individuals can help by holding onto their trash until they can access a proper receptacle. Pollution is a threat to our environment as well as human health and it does not go away. This area of the highway is adjacent to well fields, so citizens should be aware that our freshwater resources can be impacted by their daily actions,” stated Ms. Patterson in her report.
“We are treating symptoms but what can we do to stop the problem in the first place? We have to change people’s values so that they will not drop trash. They must understand that it is not morally correct to throw beer bottles or anything else out of the window,” stated Mrs. Williams.
One member of the meeting suggested that constant media hammering is needed to bring home the message about anti-littering. It was stated that in years past much trash was also to be found on roadsides in the United States but due to constant media hammering not much trash is seen these days.
It was also remarked that; “When Bahamians travel to the United States they would not dare drop a piece of trash or break any other laws because they know they would be prosecuted, but in The Bahamas they know that nothing will happen. Bahamians are lawless and there is no enforcement of the laws so people feel they can do anything here. There need to be repercussions.”
It was stated that the Department of Environmental Health is responsible for public areas but the question was asked; “What are they doing? This needs to be an island-wide campaign by Environmental Health and Government.” It was suggested that Government needs to clean up the dumps and provide more large containers which they will have picked up and emptied frequently so that garbage does not spill out all over the community.
It was noted that a huge dump of garbage has been accumulating just north of the BEC power station.
In connection with coastal awareness month, FRIENDS is requesting that as many people as possible become involved in cleaning up not only the beach areas but also inland. Persons at the meeting volunteered to organize cleanups for Casuarina Point Beach, Cherokee Sound, Sandbanks and Central Pines. Volunteers are needed to organize cleanups in all of the remaining areas of the island. It was suggested that the Rotary Club and Rotaract and all the various youth groups become involved with churches and Social Services also assisting.
A message from the Ocean Conservancy states; “Ocean and waterway trash ranks as one of the most serious pollution problems choking our planet. Far more than an eyesore, a rising tide of marine debris threatens human health, wildlife, communities and economies around the world. The Ocean faces many challenges, but trash should not be one of them. Ocean trash is entirely preventable, and data collected will help provide part of the solution. The International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s largest volunteer effort on behalf of Ocean and waterway health.”
In last year’s International Coastal Clean Up over 648,000 volunteers in 92 countries picked up more than 12.3 million pounds of trash. Trash, whether on the beach or inland, threatens tourism which is our livelihood. Nobody wants to visit or buy land in a dirty country. Anyone willing to organize a cleanup can contact Friends of the Environment at 367 2721.
FRIENDS will provide data collection forms and large trash bags.