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Wha’ Gwarn for the Garbage?

While the Caribbean represents less than 1% of the world’s ocean, it has more plastic waste than the global average. With 2,014 litter items per kilometre, compared to 573 worldwide, marine life faces a grave danger.

Every morning, R goes to one of Antigua’s beautiful beaches and collects a bucket full of trash within ten minutes. There’s litter everywhere – in the sand, water, rocks and grass – bottles, tissues, cans, drug bags and other unpleasant nameless flotsam lie discarded with scant regard for environment.  N does the same on a different beach; “Why would anyone think it’s ok to just dump their garbage?” is her constant question. Next day, it’s back.

In a world of climate change and environmental problems, some still treat the world as their trash can. Antigua and Barbuda, known for stunning beaches, is facing a big problem.

The numbers are staggering – an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. While the Caribbean represents less than 1% of the world’s ocean, it has more plastic waste than the global average. With 2,014 litter items per kilometre, compared to 573 worldwide, marine life faces a grave danger. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, birds ingest tiny plastic particles, and coral reefs suffocate under layers of waste. Trash from beach parties and drinking sessions adds to the problem.

baby-turtle-photo-by-Eli-Fuller

Now the government of Antigua and Barbuda is instigating a number of initiatives to restore the beauty of this exquisite island.

Prime Minister Gaston Brown has called on people to work together to clear the country. Some persons, he says, do not even keep their back yards clean; “we have to do better than this.”

A multi-agency team, including the St. John’s Development Cooperation (SJDC), the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), the Central Board of Health (CBH), has started to clear St John’s. Derelict and overgrown buildings are to be reviewed and the Minister of Works given approval to clear and improve the sites. A renewed effort is underway to remove the unsightly rusted and abandoned cars that litter even our most beautiful roads.

These initiatives evoke both optimism and skepticism within the community most of whom yearn to see the beauty of the country maintained. We have seen this burst of enthusiasm before; the repetitive nature of such campaigns has led some to question their efficacy. “They spray the trashed cars in red, but no one moves them,” says one indignant resident.

Why Care?

What leads people to destroy their own home? Some don’t realize the environmental impact, find it convenient, or don’t feel connected to the issue. Inadequate trash bins and collection services exacerbate the problem, turning paradise beaches into landfills.

Other Caribbean islands have similar issues as tourism grows. So, how do we teach our kids – and adults – to care about their home?

Environmental education is essential. Schools and local campaigns can raise awareness. Groups like The Wish Foundation and GoodHumans268 involve young people in environmental efforts.

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Antigua and Barbuda’s Solid Waste Management Act is a commitment to a cleaner, more sustainable future, but enforcing the legislation is tough. Even the capital city has a garbage problem. Despite the government’s efforts to place more garbage bins, vandalism disrupts progress. Repairing and replacing bins divert resources from other crucial issues.

While these efforts contribute to immediate improvements in the island’s aesthetics, the lingering question remains: Will it lead to lasting change? The challenge lies not in the absence of goodwill but in the need for sustained, systemic solutions. Clearing debris and beautifying public spaces are crucial steps, yet a comprehensive approach must address the root causes of pollution and waste. S & L  enjoy the National Park trails every week: ‘we see garbage in the strangest of places….how does it get there?”

While the familiar sight of a clear-up campaign in Antigua may trigger skepticism, it also serves as a reminder of the ongoing need for an holistic, persistent effort to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for generations to come. Beach caretaker at Galleon Beach despairs: [I make] everything good, everything clean….. when I come back it’s all over again.”

Everyone must contribute to keeping the islands beautiful. Sustainable tourism and conservation are vital. It’s a personal responsibility. Don’t expect the government to clean up after you. Keep Antigua’s beauty intact by taking care of it.

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