TOBAGO’S PLASTIC POLLUTION SOLUTION
TOBAGO’S PLASTIC POLLUTION SOLUTION:
Join Yahweh’s Enviro-Stewards.
By Elspeth Duncan
In America alone, people use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour and throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.
In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times
These are just three of the multitude of plastic pollution facts. A quick Google will reveal many more, all of them shocking in their own way. While the facts found online are often US-based, they still paint a clear picture of a vast global problem. No place on earth is exempt from the threat of plastic waste—including Tobago.
According to Penny Camps, founder and director of the Yahweh Foundation, some of the children in their youth programme, who live in the fishing village of Buccoo, have seen plastic lodged inside of freshly caught fish cut open for cleaning.
Rather than complain about the plastic problem or wait for ‘authorities’ to do something about it, the Yahweh Foundation has focused energy on an excellent community-driven solution.
“Folks—please bring your bags of plastic drinks bottles to BUCCOO Community Centre every MONDAY for collection and transportation to recycling depots .
WE NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP PLASTIC OUT OF OUR SEAS, DRAINS AND DUMP. TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT! But the truck won’t come if there’s no plastic garbage to collect. So bring de plastic nuh. Thank you & Bless you.” (Yahweh Young Enviro- Stewards)
The above message, posted on the Yahweh Foundation Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/YahwehFoundation/) and circulated widely online, is a breath of fresh air to anyone longing for a solution to plastic waste.
Since the first truck rolled into Buccoo on 13 March 2017 to collect the bags of plastic bottles (water, soft drink and juice) collected by villagers and friends, Yahweh’s Young Enviro-Stewards have been active—handing out prints of their awareness-raising environmental calendar to villages, educating neighbours on the methods and benefits of plastic collection and rolling and packaging transparent garbage bags for distribution to up to 200 householders in Buccoo.
The Yahweh Foundation (http://yahwehtobago.org/) is an NGO with a humanitarian focus—as illustrated through their mission statement: “To help young people flourish and elderly thrive, with quality-based professional, educational, social and spiritual support offered by the elders in our communities in Tobago.”
The plastic-collection drive, their most recent initiative, has become more popular as word spreads and Tobago-based residents become increasingly aware of the importance of committing to a proper plastic disposal routine.
Penny Camps explains how, through this project, Yahweh’s purpose—‘being our Brother’s keeper’—has extended from caring for the vulnerable human (young and old) to caring for the vulnerable environment.
Of the 24 local young enviro-stewards, approximately twelve are teens (13 – 17 years old) and another twelve range in age from 7 – 12. Through the vital CONNECT part of the project, these youths were given practical opportunities to connect with their environment and truly understand how to look after it in a sustained way.
Over a period of approximately fourteen months they were exposed to 2 two-week environmental camps and outings to various waterfalls, beaches, the rainforest and other natural landmarks where clean ups were always a part of the focus.
Penny Camps outlines the project’s initial basic aims: “At first, get the community committed to collecting. The goal is by the end of 2017 to have at least 40% of the Buccoo community every week engaged actively in collection and responsible disposal of plastic bottles. The other goal is to migrate this to other communities using the young stewards.”
To assist with the dissemination of information, Yahweh is seeking funding for creation of a documentary which will be used as a training tool to show both the fun of connecting with environment and the responsibility required. With this teaching tool, the empowered Young Enviro-Stewards will visit communities and schools to share their vision of a plastic-free Tobago environment.
HOW YOU CAN BECOME A PART OF THIS EXCELLENT INITIATIVE:
* People who live outside of Buccoo can bring their plastic drink bottles to the Buccoo Community Centre every Monday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
* Please place plastic drinking bottles in clear plastic bags, ensuring that juice and soft drink bottles are washed and that all bottles are crushed if possible.
* Please place no other form of garbage in the bag(s) or the bag(s) will be refused and taken to the dump (which defeats the purpose)!
* Truck collection takes place in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Yahweh gives thanks to collaborators, BK Holdings for assisting with the transport of the bags, which are held at Cove Industrial Estate before being shipped to BK’s facility in Central Trinidad. There the plastic is crushed into pellets and exported for recycling.
“We’re taking it in baby steps,” Penny says. “ The idea is to get the information out and get people used to it. Lots of people want to dispose of their plastic!”
Having a daytime event? Using plastic bottles? Invite Yahweh’s Enviro Stewards to attend and collect and, at the same time, disseminate information to educate the public. Contact Penny Camps at 682-3297. firstname.lastname@example.org and www.facebook.com/YahwehFoundation.Write to their Facebook page, send in videos of you and friends collecting plastic, or photos of how many bags you and your friends and neighbours have collected. Inspire your fellow Tobagonians to keep our island clean!
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