T&T Schools to compete to collect Plastic waste


Thousands of students in north-west Trinidad are scouring their neighbourhoods 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. They are participating in the second annual Plasti-thon, a plastic recycling competition for schools, launched by the environmental NGO, Plastikeep.
The ‘Plasti-thon’ competition, taking place from 18 February – 8 March, 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 care-takers 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; hiking trips to Nutmeg Vale and Edith Falls courtesy the Chaguaramas Development Authority, up to $2,000 in a RightStart account at Republic Bank and environmentally themed books for the school library, courtesy sponsors including Nigel Khan’s bookstore, who will also donate a Kindle wireless reader.
Some 27 schools and over 15,000 students have 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.
According to Rosanna Farmer, Project Director at Plastikeep: “When we began this competition last year we weren’t sure what the response from the children would be, but it was overwhelming. We were encouraged to do it again this year, as more and more schools wanted to participate. What’s also been exciting is that the parents of children who took part in 2012 reported being amazed at the amount of plastic collected in their homes and realised the importance of reducing their plastic use. So, the children’s involvement in the Plasti-thon has an additional ripple effect of changing attitudes within families and in turn – the wider community.” According to Farmer, some of last year’s participants were also quite creative — taking garbage bags with them wherever they went and collecting plastic from the beach, from cinema complexes and encouraging people around them not to litter. “This generation of young people — once armed with information — is so earnest and committed to a greener environment, that I feel heartened”, she said.
For further information visit the Plastikeep website at: www.plastikeep.com
About Plastic Waste in Trinidad and Tobago:
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 rivers, drains and seas off T&T. 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.”
According to Plastikeep, 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.
About Plastikeep:
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.
The dangers of plastic:
Wildlife can mistake plastics and other litter for food—with fatal effects. Turtles, for example, mistake floating plastic bags for their main food source: jellyfish. They can suffocate and die from ingesting the plastic imposters.
The debris, chemicals and residues from plastics can kill many other forms of sea life, including sharks and sea birds. They are harmed not only by accidentally eating plastic but also by entanglement in bags, straps and packing materials found on or below the water surface.
Plastic takes up unnecessary space in landfills. Even if we dispose of plastics in the garbage bin, we add to the problem of waste management. Our landfills are filled and overflowing. If we diverted plastics out of landfills and into recycling, we would reduce the solid waste burden in the country by as much as 20%.
What Can I Do with Plastic Waste?
There are several ways you can help reduce the burden of plastic waste on our country:
First, reduce the amount you consume. If you can choose to prepare foods and drinks in reusable containers rather than buy disposable ones, do! You will benefit from a healthier diet as well as reduce the amount of garbage for disposal.
When you do buy plastic bottles or containers, try to keep and reuse them before disposal. While it is not safe to reuse disposable plastics with food for a very long time, do consider washing and reusing bottles once or twice to keep drinking water or juices rather than buying a new bottle; reuse larger containers around the home for storage. As much as possible, take plastic grocery bags back to the grocery when you shop, or use a cloth bag, so that you can avoid bringing home more plastics with every grocery trip.
If you live in the Plastikeep pilot project areas, crush your plastics and keep them in a separate bag from your garbage. When the bag is full, bring it to a dropoff point. Your plastics will be recycled and you can be confident you have not added to the plastic waste problem in Trinidad and Tobago. If you live outside the Plastikeep pilot project areas, contact a plastic recycling company to find a location where you can deposit plastic and other recyclables, or visit our website on: www.plastikeep.com

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