Hundreds of students in north-west Trinidad are gearing up to start scouring their neighbour- hoods and school environs, for plastic that has been dumped in the streets or earmarked for the dustbin at home, in a bid to collect the most plastic for the first ever Plasti-thon, launched by the environmental NGO, Plastikeep.
The ‘Plasti-thon’ competition, which takes place from 14 May – 8 June, has been developed by Plastikeep to encourage school children to become aware of the dangers plastic poses to the natural environment and to wildlife, and to support them in becoming avid plastic recyclers and life-long stewards of the environment.
The individual child, class and school who collects the most plastic will be awarded an environmentally-linked prize that should appeal to the youngsters’ sense of adventure, and will include an overnight stay at Mt Plaisir, in Grande Riviere, for turtle watching and a ‘Right Start’ account at Republic Bank. One of the biggest man-made threats to the giant leatherback turtles is plastic in the ocean, which often causes them to suffocate and die when they mistake it for jellyfish and swallow it.
According to Rosanna Farmer, Project Director at Plastikeep: “Each day in Trinidad and Tobago we use up to 1.2 million pieces of plastic and very little of it is disposed of properly. A major concern is that plastic comprises up to 80% of the garbage floating in the seas off T&T. That’s 15,000 pieces of litter on every square kilometer of water! When you add the fact that it doesn’t break down like paper or organic waste, the problem gets worse with every new piece of discarded plastic.”
Farmer explained that the problem is caused partly through ignorance, as many people throw waste into the environment believing it will naturally decompose. However, depending on the type of plastic, it can take anywhere between 20 – 450 years to breakdown, and styrofoam never does. In the meanwhile, the discarded plastic produces a toxic residue, which is harmful to all living species including humans.
Ten schools and over 5,000 students have already signed up to participate in the Plasti-thon and hope to collect and recycle tons of plastic. The competition is only open to schools in the north-west of Trinidad who are part of the Plastikeep pilot project.
Plastikeep is a pilot project that seeks to raise public awareness about the hazards of plastic waste, provide information about proper plastic waste disposal, cultivate a culture of plastic recycling and reduce the amount of plastic waste deposited in landfills and the natural environment. As part of the pilot, the organisation provides recycle bins to communities in north-west Trinidad, and based on data collected will be able to gauge the volume of plastic waste produced nationally and determine the viability of a nationwide initiative. The project is the brainchild of the Greenlight Network and receives funding from the Government’s Green Fund.
For further information visit the Plastikeep website at: www.plastikeep.com