By Karisa Amrit
Public Education Department
Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL)
On June 5, we celebrate World Environment Day. This year’s theme, Beat Plastic Pollution highlights the urgent need to protect our environment and secure a sustainable future.
‘Plastic Pollution’ refers to the indiscriminate accumulation of plastic objects and particles into our natural environment, resulting in harmful effects on humans, wildlife, and their habitat.
Plastic pollution affects marine animals when they become entangled in plastic debris, leading to injuries and sometimes death. In addition, when plastics break down into smaller particles known as ‘microplastics’ they may be mistakenly eaten by fish. In this way, plastic enters the food chain, when it is consumed by humans. This can lead to various diseases.
Additionally, as has been experienced in areas such as Central and East Trinidad during heavy rainfall, plastic pollution also clogs drains and rivers, which leads to flooding.
With these examples of plastic pollution in mind, here are some practical steps to combat this issue and make a positive impact:
Reduce – Single-use plastics – such as bags, bottles, utensils, and straws – contribute significantly to pollution. Every year over 700,000 tonnes of trash reach our landfills in Trinidad and Tobago. Plastics constitute an astounding 19 per cent of this figure. By reducing our plastic consumption and opting for reusable alternatives, we can contribute to plastic waste reduction.
Reuse – We can reduce the demand for new plastic production by finding imaginative ways to reuse or repurpose plastic items. Repurposing plastic containers as plant pots or storage solutions not only reduces waste, but also promotes a circular economy and allows you to explore your creativity.
Recycle – Recycling also plays a crucial role in combatting plastic pollution. Properly sorting and recycling plastic waste helps to divert valuable material from the nation’s landfills and prevent further damage to our ecosystems.
To support our society in the fight against plastic pollution, the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) carries out a nation-wide Public Education and Awareness campaign.
SWMCOL conducts school visits and community outreach to educate individuals about waste reduction, recycling, and the importance of proper waste disposal and aims to foster a culture of environmental consciousness. We believe that no matter your age or gender, Everyone can be an Earth Defender.
SWMCOL has also implemented various recycling programmes which aim to divert recyclable materials from the landfills such as the Workplace Waste Reduction and Recycling Programme (WRAP).
This programme allows businesses to fulfil their corporate and social responsibility toward the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.
Furthermore, SWMCOL’s strategic partnerships with private, public, and non-governmental organisations facilitates the retrieval of plastic and other types of waste from our beaches, parks, and rivers.
These partnerships also allow for the exploration of innovative ways to manage waste, including the use of plastic bottles to make furniture and even as a source of energy.
Notably, recyclable beverage containers which are collected through our WRAP programme, clean-up partnerships and through any of our collection points, are processed at SWMCOL’s Beverage Container Recycling Facility at the NAMDEVCO Compound in Port of Spain and at the Material Recovery Facility at the Guanapo Landfill site. These sites process an average of 15 tonnes of plastic per month.
SWMCOL wants you to know that by reducing our plastic consumption, reusing creatively, recycling responsibly, and raising awareness, we can all be Earth Defenders and beat plastic pollution!