Living in Trinidad and Tobago, we all know that options for handling the plastic waste we produce are limited. A few dedicated companies have engaged in plastics recycling as a business, but the information on reaching these companies, and infrastructure to deliver the plastics to them, are very limited.
Plastikeep aims to begin changing this, by not only enabling residents in the pilot project area to divert their plastics now, but also by educating residents in the rest of Trinidad and Tobago on ways we can make plastic waste less harmful.
Is Plastic Waste Harmful? Yes. Plastics which are not collected and recycled contribute to environmental and health problems in many ways. Here are just a few:
• When people throw away bottles and containers by littering, the waste clogs drains, rivers and harbours. When rain falls, water backs up and floods; when rain is not falling, stagnant water collects both in the containers and the waterways, creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes and disease. Plastic comprises up to 80% of the garbage floating in the seas off T&T—that’s
15,000 pieces of litter on every square kilometer of water! Because plastic does not break down like paper or organic waste, the problem remains and gets worse with every new piece of litter.
Waste collecting at Hart's Cut, Chaguaramas
• Wildlife can mistake plastics and other litter for food—with fatal effects. Turtles, for example, mistake floating plastic bags for
jellyfish, which are edible to turtles. They can suffocate and die from ingesting the plastic imposters.
A turtle mistaking a plastic bag for a jellyfish
• The debris, chemicals and residues from plastics can kill many other forms of sea life, including sharks and sea birds. They are harmed not only by accidentally eating plastic but also by entanglement in bags, straps and packing materials found on or below the water surface
A sea bird covered by a plastic bag
• Plastic takes up unnecessary space in landfills. Even if we dispose of plastics in the garbage bin, we add to the problem of waste management. Our landfills are filled and overflowing. If we diverted plastics out of landfills and into recycling, we would reduce the solid waste burden in the country by as much as 20%.
Landfills versus Recyclying
How long does it take for waste materials to decompose? Many people throw waste into the environment believing it will naturally decompose. But how long does decomposition take? It can vary with many factors--humidity, the material type, temperature and exposure. In short, man-made waste materials stay for a long time in the soil or water when they are improperly disposed of; some cause harm to animals and humans, and many leave toxic residues.
There is no fixed measurement of how long it takes waste to break down, but we have collected estimates from varied sources below.
|Decompostion Rate Chart Guesstimates and Comparison|
|Material||New York Times||Penn State University||The Ocean Conservancy, 2004|
|Plastic beverage bottle||-||450yrs||-|
|Waxed milk carton||5yrs||5yrs||3mnths|
Feel free to contact us if you have a valid source!
First, reduce the amount you consume. If you can choose to prepare foods and drinks in reusable containers rather than buy disposable ones, do! You will benefit from a healthier diet as well as reduce the amount of garbage for disposal.
When you do buy plastic bottles or containers, try to keep and reuse them before disposal. While it is not safe to reuse disposable plastics with food for a very long time, do consider washing and reusing bottles once or twice to keep drinking water or juices rather than buying a new bottle; reuse larger containers around the home for storage. As much as possible, take plastic grocery bags back to the grocery when you shop, so that you can avoid bringing home more plastics with every grocery trip.
If you live in the Plastikeep pilot project areas, crush your plastics and keep them in a separate bag from your garbage. When the bag is full, bring it to a dropoff point. Your plastics WILL be recycled and you can be confident you have not added to the plastic waste problem in T&T.
If you live outside the Plastikeep pilot project areas, please contact one of our partners to find a location where you can bring plastic and other recyclables.