The Zero Waste Challenge

Tobago's iconic locations are well-kept and tidy; cleaned overnight, ready for visitors every morning. But do you know where the trash goes?

Do you think you can live so lightly that you generate no waste? Take the Zero Waste Challenge and find out how far you have to go to Zero.
Like all challenges of this nature, it asks us to consider the process of approaching “zero waste.” We are led to consider consumption patterns, use, re-use and recovery of waste products.  Even if we don’t get to zero waste, perhaps we may re-consider the growing hills of garbage and come to regard them as resources for new industries. Recycled plastic is already being used to make shoes and bags; fabric and furniture, or construction and road building material. A few countries have turned to renewable sources of energy; and support industries that produce zero waste. Other communities are repairing and repurposing used items.

Perhaps, this is an exercise that may be developed as a study for a class of primary or secondary students for any school term in 2018.

Step 1:
In a day, or a week, consider all the waste that is generated in your home. It would be useful to sort the waste materials into bins or boxes. Even if you don’t do this, create a chart on the fridge. Keep a Waste Diary in an old notebook.  List categories such as:
Glass (bottles);
Plastic (include shampoo bottles, beverage containers, styrofoam packaging);
Organic (vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, fish and chicken bones);
Oils (cooking oil or grease; engine oils and lubricants);
Paper (newspapers, cardboard boxes, waste paper);
Other (appliances, used clothing, books, toys, pots, furniture).
Whether you are actually sorting and storing, or putting everything into the household garbage, record the items that you discard each day, in a week, a month, a year.

Step 2:
Consider how you might re-use each item that you are discarding.
Glass beverage bottles are re-usable or returnable. Carib Glass recovers their beer bottles; others are collected by Carib Glass to be ground up and remade into new bottles.
Plastics are the most insidious of the waste; they get into every waterway. You may want to consider how you can reduce your plastic waste by refusing to use plastic straws and single use containers and cutlery, for instance.  Carry your personal reusable water bottle. Some people are even carrying cutlery and standard jars for drinking. Before you select soft dinks in plastic bottles, think of how you will dispose of the bottle – as well as the nutritional value of a sugary soda beverage.
For Organics, you may consider feeding your chickens, or building a compost bin. If you decide to compost – or to simply put vegetable and fruit peels in a secluded spot in the yard – you will be able to add cuttings from the yard, shredded newspaper and some smelly waste (bones for instance) to the compost. It’s better not to add bones or waste food, since these may encourage rats and stray animals.
Cardboard and paper waste may be used in composting; and around plants to keep weeds down.

You may want to encourage your community to place collection bins for the different recyclables. Seek information and participate in the THA recycling and waste disposal plan.


Step 3:
Think about how much of your waste comes to your home as part of what you purchase in the grocery, or market or store.
If you carry your own reusable bag when you go shopping (to the grocery, the market or the mall) you can refuse the plastic bag that seems to be part of every purchase.
Fill and carry your reusable water bottle.
Refuse plastic straws.
When the grass or bush at the roadside or in gardens are cut, why are they put into plastic garbage bags. Where do these bags go? Better use of cuttings might be around growing trees or in compost.
Wherever possible, try to minimize the plastic bags or wrappings that accompany every purchase.

Step 4:
Become more aware of where waste goes in Tobago. Are there waste dumps in your village? Is there regular collection by the contractors who collect your garbage? Where does your garbage go? Are there dumps that are open to scavenging dogs, or on a drain that goes to the sea? Most of the garbage collected in Tobago is supposed to go to the landfill at Studley Park? Do you know where this is? Could you visit? Form a community or school group and make your project  "what happens to waste" that is collected in your area.

Rosanna Farmer, Plastikeep founder and operator, believes that individuals working in communities are the key to reducing, re-using and recycling waste streams. Over the long-term, it is possible for community-based organisations to create and support business based on the recapture of materials from waste streams.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the framework for waste management and recycling is supported by legislation and policy already articulated. The Beverage Container Bill of 1999 allows for recovery of plastic and glass bottles, cans, tetrapaks and cardboard containers through a deposit and refund system. At this time, the refund is only applied on glass bottles from Carib Glass, the company which also accepts all other glass bottles for recycling.

The Integrated Solid Waste/ Resource Management Policy of 2012 ambitiously articulated a strategy for waste management that would be led by Local Government with participation from private and public sector organisations, communities and NGOs. It envisages a holistic approach where citizens take responsibility, understand the processes by which waste is generated, and take part in finding solutions to reduce waste and to recycle, recover and re-use materials and products. Behavioural change takes place at personal and household and community levels; new information, technology and opportunities should create continuous learning cycles.

The National Environmental Policy was adopted in Parliament in 2006. Although the policy proposes that the power to protect the environment should rest in the hands of citizens’ groups and communities, the policy recognizes the government’s role in managing and penalizing polluters especially in the industrial and mining sectors.

The challenge now is to get citizens on board, through public information and sustained activities especially in schools and community groups.

We need to be like Barbados! A site adjacent to the landfill in Barbados has been turned into an industrial facility where garbage is sorted: plastic, glass, metal and electronic, cardboard and organics. Sustainable Barbados is a private-public sector partnership intended to reduce waste to the landfill while recovering and re-using materials. It is already creating employment, and a viable business from composting. The Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre is located at Vaucluse in the Parish of St. Thomas, Barbados, on a 35-acre site.


Comments

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