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Plastikeep works to make sense of the mess
Throughout the year, there are approximately 70 million plastic bottles manufactured and used in T&T a month. According to Rosanna Farmer, founder of the non governmental organisation Plastikeep, this is an exorbitant amount, especially since most of those plastic bottles are not disposed of properly.
Excessive plastic consumption doesn’t end with plastic bottles, however. There are seven different types of plastic which can be found in a variety of items from grocery bags to detergent containers to the styrofoam boxes and plastic knives and forks used by food vendors.
The plastic itself was not the problem; it’s what we did with it said Farmer during an interview at the Plastikeep headquarters on Cupen Road in Maraval.
Farmer, who’s worked on numerous environmental projects and refers to herself as an environmental activist, founded Plastikeep in 2008 with support from the Green Fund.
While working on a environmental documentary series, Farmer came across a primary school in Sangre Grande that had a recycling project. Farmer was surprised by the project, inspired to start one of her own and appalled by what plastic was doing to the environment.
“The short term effects of extensive plastic consumption and improper disposal of plastic is flooding and the blighting of our environment,” Farmer said.
“It’s everywhere, it’s a nuisance in terms of environmental and health issues. There are dire repercussions to the excessive use of plastic in terms of the environment; it’s killing out fishes and destroying our oceans.
“We are in a bad way because of this plastic. Although plastic degrades, it does not biodegrade. It’s not like a mango that becomes dirt. Plastic can break down into the tiniest particles that your eyes and my eyes can’t see and still remain plastic.”
Recycling plastic is just the first step in an environmentally friendly lifestyle according to Farmer.
“People who participate in some form of recycling activity develop a consciousness and they usually start recycling other materials like glass and paper as well,” she said.
Plastikeep went into operation in 2010 and since then has collected more than 100,000 kilogrammes of plastic which have been sent abroad for recycling. The plastic is exported because there are no local facilities that recycle post-consumer plastic.
Farmer explained that post-consumer plastic consists of the materials found in everyday products while post-industrial plastic comes from manufacturing companies and are generally recycled in-house.
Plastikeep has 14 collection bins in the northwest Trinidad and at 16 primary and secondary schools. A national programme would be ideal, but Farmer said more government support is necessary to make that a reality.
“Our ability to expand depends on more funding,” she said.
“We are mandated by the Green Fund to use the money in this area. The reason being, because they want other community groups to access the fund and do work in their areas.
“But national projects need to start at a community level and be followed by government involvement to really be successful because they need regional corporation collection. It has to be that we the taxpayer are paying for it.”
Farmer spoke to the T&T Guardian during the heat of the Carnival season - a time when most people eat and drink on the go and increase their amount of plastic waste. Farmer has doubts that the festival can be in any way sustainable. Waste disposal is not only a problem of people littering, but there is the issue of the lack of sufficient receptacles for waste said Farmer. However, there are some ways you can reduce your plastic waste during the season such as carrying your own reusable cup or water bottle or using a flask or hydration backpack (a backpack with built in water bottle) during the days.
Here are some other ways to reduce your plastic waste all year round:
1. Don’t use plastic straws. When buying a drink you can simply refuse the plastic straw or if straws are necessary consider purchasing a reusable stainless steel or glass drinking straw to take out with you.
2. Carry your own water bottle.
3. When you’re going to the market taking a market bag is great, but cutting back on the number of small plastic bags used for produce is even better. Also consider keeping the plastic bags you get at the market and using them weekly.
4. Buy boxes instead of bottles. Cardboard is easier to recycle than plastic.
5. Reuse containers - Trinis are already familiar with this practice
6. If you know you’ll be eating at a take away food service plan ahead and take your own containers. This way you avoid having to improperly dispose of styrofoam or plastic knives and forks.
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