Littering: Trinbagonians’ Ugly Side

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If it’s one thing most Trinbagonians don’t have qualms about, it’s resting a beer bottle at the side of the road. For a growing number of us, we also feel no shame to throw that bottle out of a moving car, and if it came with a meal, the remnants of that too.
It’s a nasty habit that’s been left unchecked for so long by the relevant authorities that now it’s more of a cultural phenomenon. We have a litterbug problem. You can see it almost everywhere you drive, and for those Southies like myself, heading home after a stint up ‘town, the worst eyesore yet is the plastic bottle covered hillside by the Claxton Bay flyover. I’m convinced that the image of this expanse of hill to the left of our nation’s highway has caused an accident or two by its vast trash. Worst yet, it looks as if this isn’t a bother to even the highest of authorities, since they need to take this route home.
Still, the Government can’t be blamed for how we think or our actions. As a matter of fact, if you listen closely, our collective mindset towards littering can be heard in our daily speech.
“But it eh have no bins…”
… The quip before we release the rubbish to our feet. Mind you, if you’re on any main street, especially one in a ‘town’ – Port of Spain, San Fernando, Chaguanas or Arima – there’s a trash receptacle somewhere within walking distance. Maybe all that walk to the end of the street to throw away only an empty Catch wrapper just isn’t worth it; but consider this, with over a million people living on this island, if each person throws one piece of litter each day, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our drains are clogged with rubbish. So next time it rains, and you’re walking through ankle deep water don’t get upset, you are part of this problem.
“So, what CEPEP dere for?”
One of the most ignorant statements to ever fall from a Trinbagonian’s mouth is… “If there wasn’t any litter, CEPEP workers would be out of the job”. Yet these same people audaciously wonder “why it have so much bush” growing at the side of the road, or why our highways aren’t as prettily landscaped as other countries.  According to my grey-bearded, nine-year veteran, CEPEP operator (“operator eh, not labourer”) friend Kent Clark, “You wouldn’t believe how nasty people are eh girl!  You could imagine people with big houses does throw their garbage in de bush?” – which he explained to me is what they stumble upon when they’re cutting the grass by the roadways.
This not only slows down their progress, but, ultimately, it’s demoralizing, diminishing the contribution of these valuable workers when an area cleared of rubbish, today, returns to a littered state tomorrow. While it is their job to maintain the country’s landscape, it is NOT their job to pick up after us.
“Why it have so much mosquitoes?”
Are you wondering where all these mosquitoes are coming from? Sure, we’ve been having a record rainy season, but where is all the water collecting? And how is it that their numbers are growing despite the measures you’re taking to secure your yard. You are cleaning the yard right? Emptying buckets and changing plant trays? You do know that mosquitoes can lay their eggs in any stagnant water, right?
Right now it’s dengue we have ‘to study’, but should flooding problems continue, sewage and rubbish could expose many of our people to cholera, staph and other bacterial diseases. You see, just as how the continuous rise in crime has caused apathy towards even the most violent acts, our litter problem has bred apathy towards our environment, even when it comes to clearing up the mess in our own yard to make sure we don’t literally get bitten.
“I doh wanna litter, but it still eh have no bins”
You had to choose an item from the menu, you had to think about how much money you had, and throughout your meal you consciously enjoyed it. Now, it’s time to think about how you’re going to dispose of the waste.
Look to your left, now to your right, still no trash bins? Are you far from the place you purchased your food, or any food place for that matter? Go inside and use their bin. In a moving car? The rubbish isn’t self-destructing so tie the top of the bag and leave it on the floor of your car until you get to your destination. Demand the same from your friends, and let them know why you’ve kicked the bad habit of littering. It just isn’t healthy for anyone, and we’ve got to fix it some time, right?
So what are we going to do about it? Remember when your elders would let you know when you were doing something wrong? Even if they were complete strangers, we took their correction. Well, for all the litterbugs, guess what? Stop pretending you’re a teen and admit you’re a twenty or thirty-something year old, and “do the right thing”. You could even go a little further if you think your neighbourhood could benefit from a community bin, a spray for dengue or a more routine garbage pick-up, and contact your MP.
There’s nothing more Third World than a society that disposes its garbage anywhere, without conscience. We may not have the slums of India or the garbage from a population as big as China, but you’d never know it driving past Claxton Bay in the southbound lane. Are we becoming the ‘ugly’ in the Caribbean? Proud Trinbagonians, wha’ yuh say?

nolitteringIf it’s one thing most Trinbagonians don’t have qualms about, it’s resting a beer bottle at the side of the road. For a growing number of us, we also feel no shame to throw that bottle out of a moving car, and if it came with a meal, the remnants of that too. 

It’s a nasty habit that’s been left unchecked for so long by the relevant authorities that now it’s more of a cultural phenomenon. We have a litterbug problem. You can see it almost everywhere you drive, and for those Southies like myself, heading home after a stint up ‘town, the worst eyesore yet is the plastic bottle covered hillside by the Claxton Bay flyover. I’m convinced that the image of this expanse of hill to the left of our nation’s highway has caused an accident or two by its vast trash. Worst yet, it looks as if this isn’t a bother to even the highest of authorities, since they need to take this route home. 

Still, the Government can’t be blamed for how we think or our actions. As a matter of fact, if you listen closely, our collective mindset towards littering can be heard in our daily speech.


 

“But it eh have no bins…”

… The quip before we release the rubbish to our feet. Mind you, if you’re on any main street, especially one in a ‘town’ – Port of Spain, San Fernando, Chaguanas or Arima – there’s a trash receptacle somewhere within walking distance. Maybe all that walk to the end of the street to throw away only an empty Catch wrapper just isn’t worth it; but consider this, with over a million people living on this island, if each person throws one piece of litter each day, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our drains are clogged with rubbish. So next time it rains, and you’re walking through ankle deep water don’t get upset, you are part of this problem.

 

“So, what CEPEP dere for?”

One of the most ignorant statements to ever fall from a Trinbagonian’s mouth is… “If there wasn’t any litter, CEPEP workers would be out of the job”. Yet these same people audaciously wonder “why it have so much bush” growing at the side of the road, or why our highways aren’t as prettily landscaped as other countries.  According to my grey-bearded, nine-year veteran, CEPEP operator (“operator eh, not labourer”) friend Kent Clark, “You wouldn’t believe how nasty people are eh girl!  You could imagine people with big houses does throw their garbage in de bush?” – which he explained to me is what they stumble upon when they’re cutting the grass by the roadways. 

This not only slows down their progress, but, ultimately, it’s demoralizing, diminishing the contribution of these valuable workers when an area cleared of rubbish, today, returns to a littered state tomorrow. While it is their job to maintain the country’s landscape, it is NOT their job to pick up after us.  

 

“Why it have so much mosquitoes?”

Are you wondering where all these mosquitoes are coming from? Sure, we’ve been having a record rainy season, but where is all the water collecting? And how is it that their numbers are growing despite the measures you’re taking to secure your yard. You are cleaning the yard right? Emptying buckets and changing plant trays? You do know that mosquitoes can lay their eggs in any stagnant water, right? 

Right now it’s dengue we have ‘to study’, but should flooding problems continue, sewage and rubbish could expose many of our people to cholera, staph and other bacterial diseases. You see, just as how the continuous rise in crime has caused apathy towards even the most violent acts, our litter problem has bred apathy towards our environment, even when it comes to clearing up the mess in our own yard to make sure we don’t literally get bitten.  

 

“I doh wanna litter, but it still eh have no bins”

You had to choose an item from the menu, you had to think about how much money you had, and throughout your meal you consciously enjoyed it. Now, it’s time to think about how you’re going to dispose of the waste. 

Look to your left, now to your right, still no trash bins? Are you far from the place you purchased your food, or any food place for that matter? Go inside and use their bin. In a moving car? The rubbish isn’t self-destructing so tie the top of the bag and leave it on the floor of your car until you get to your destination. Demand the same from your friends, and let them know why you’ve kicked the bad habit of littering. It just isn’t healthy for anyone, and we’ve got to fix it some time, right?

So what are we going to do about it? Remember when your elders would let you know when you were doing something wrong? Even if they were complete strangers, we took their correction. Well, for all the litterbugs, guess what? Stop pretending you’re a teen and admit you’re a twenty or thirty-something year old, and “do the right thing”. You could even go a little further if you think your neighbourhood could benefit from a community bin, a spray for dengue or a more routine garbage pick-up, and contact your MP.  

There’s nothing more Third World than a society that disposes its garbage anywhere, without conscience. We may not have the slums of India or the garbage from a population as big as China, but you’d never know it driving past Claxton Bay in the southbound lane. Are we becoming the ‘ugly’ in the Caribbean? Proud Trinbagonians, wha’ yuh say?

 

Check out the rest of this week’s issue (28/3/11; Issue 50):

Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!

 

Quilin Achat

Quilin Achat is an avid lover of reading, so it's no surprise that she runs a small, unconventional bookstore called The Fire is Lit, in San Fernando. Check out the Fire is Lit at http://facebook.com/theFireisLit.

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