The Department of Environmental Health is on a quest to encourage residents to reduce the amount of garbage they generate and how it is disposed, to reduce the amount of litter which ends up in our ocean.
Last week, Environmental Health Officer Deidre Allen visited the Brades Primary School and Lookout Primary School to discuss waste management and how each person can do their part to protect the ocean.
The programme is a part of Reduction in Marine Litter (ReMLit), a six-nation OECS Commission initiative funded by the Government of Norway.
Allen told the students that while regular beach clean-ups are conducted by both the public and private sectors, the trash returns week after week. This, she explained, is because the problem begins in the communities where residents are not disposing of their garbage properly.
The Collins River has been found to be the source of much of the litter which ends up on Carr’s Bay and Little Bay beaches. This river comprises ghauts which run through Manjack, Salt Springs, Barzeys, Sweeneys, and Davy Hill and empties into the freshwater pond in Carr’s Bay.
Carr’s Bay is the home to several shorebirds and a popular spot for winter birds migrating South. Their home is under threat because of trash indiscriminately dumped in the villages making its way into the ghauts and down to the seaside, after it rains.
While the Environmental Health Department encourages residents to only put their trash outside on the scheduled collection morning, they also hope that more people will consider their choices before they go shopping and once they produce waste at home.
“Instead of buying small individual snack packages for children, a bigger bag will allow you to save money but also reduce the amount of plastic that needs to be disposed of,” Allen explained. “Protecting the ocean protects jobs, trade, and an important food source for many. Using reusable shopping bags rather than accepting plastic bags in the supermarkets and properly securing garbage bags to reduce fly away litter are two ways that we can each help to protect our ocean.”
Students at both primary schools offered examples of how they reduce, reuse, and recycle things around their homes. Many shared that they bring water bottles to schools rather than purchase bottled water, others said using the waste from foods in their backyard gardens was better than throwing it in the garbage.
The need to protect the ocean is also essential for the economy as Montserrat’s tourism product is built around both land and sea.
Director of Tourism Rosetta West-Gerald said, “the livelihoods of our fisherfolk, restaurants, water sports operators can be significantly affected if we do not work together to protect the ocean.”
In the coming months, the REMLit project will also see a number of garbage bins distributed to neighbourhoods near the affected beaches, to encourage proper waste disposal practices.
The other nations in the project are Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.