ON September 20, 2014, Trinidad and Tobago will participate for the twelfth year in the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC), a volunteer effort that has been picking up steam locally.
Minister in the Ministry of the Environment, Ramona Ramdial, said on Thursday 103 local participants in the 2013 ICC removed 27,000 thousand pounds of garbage from 25 beaches—all in three hours.
In the challenge internationally, half a million volunteers picked up ten million pounds of rubbish from beaches around the globe.
Much of the garbage plaguing beaches and waterways in T&T are plastic-based, with the ubiquitous plastic water bottles, unwelcome guests from the booming bottled water industry, forming much of the waste.
Ramdial, speaking at a certificate ceremony for the 2013/2014 ICC at The Marriott on Invader’s Bay, Port of Spain, said this country is still at the "lower end of the spectrum" in recycling capabilities and waste management infrastructure.
"As such, the Government has been pursuing initiatives like the Beverage Containers Bill, the recent establishment of the Environmental Task Force, the strengthening of the Environmental Police Unit at the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the employment of litter wardens," Ramdial said.
"As the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources attempts to reverse years of bad habits, ventures such as the Beverage Containers Bill will assist in curbing the issue of plastic manufacturing, consumption and waste as it delivers a national economic and environmental response to this brazen issue."
Marine trash is not only unsightly but is silent killer of marine life.
Trash can travel for hundreds of miles, along the way suffocating and poisoning fish, turtles, dolphins and other ocean dwellers who mistake items like plastic bags for food.
Different materials have varying rates of decomposition, in many instances having a longer life-span that the humans who dumped them as it can take from 1-10 years for cigarette butts to break down and 450 years for plastic bottles.
The annual clean-up efforts work towards increasing the resilience of oceans and rivers, restoring their aesthetics and environmental integrity, while also protecting marine life and the well-being of humans and ecosystems from materials that compromise their health and endanger their lives, Ramdial said.
An increase is expected this year in the number of volunteers and T&T has broadened its scope to about 36 beaches and watercourses for this year's ICC challenge.
The event is coordinated locally by the Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD) and the National Planning Committee (NPC).