Mas Trash

Carnival 2019 where do I begin ?

How do I begin?

Why was there so much trash ?

I had such an enjoyable carnival season but one thing that has been bothering me since my 1st fete was the volume of plastic waste produced and left on the ground like decorative ornaments. I was totally mind-blown at the state of the floor and the fact that everyone else seemed to be accepting of this unsustainable behaviour.

Was I really the only one bothered?

Maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing ?

For the life of me the environmentalist in me could not shake the overwhelming feeling to say and do something. Yes there was a clean up crew but still the volume of waste truly did not sit right with me. What made matters worse was the fact that it was all plastic waste, plastic bottles, cups,bags and Styrofoam containers. It is no secret that Trinidad and Tobago has a waste problem but the amount of rubbish produced during carnival celebrations is not normal and something drastically needs to be done.

Let’s rewind a bit. This carnival truly had a different kind of energy and although I did not play mas, there was no way I was not going to fete my life away and part take in jouvert celebrations. Let me tell you I had the time of my life, I was tired, exhausted, broken up, in pain but once I had fete tickets I got dressed and partied my life away. The soca this year was absolutely phenomenal, tuning into every positive feeling in your body making you forget all your worries and just leaving you with an overwhelming sense of joy. We had lyrical gems like Savannah Grass, sweet soca like Jammin, wild soca like Run with it and Unifying soca like Famalay. Despite the gorgeous costumes, vibesy fetes and soul moving soca the pollution for Carnival 2019 was atrocious!

Let’s first talk about the fetes. Every fete I went to at the was laden with rubbish at the end.

Why?

We have a culture of unnecessary single plastic usage with limited waste disposal options at events. Bins were far from the center of the event and the amount of bins in no way matched the volume of waste produced. Is this something that could have been avoided? If don’t use single use plastics then what is the alternative ? This is where the problem lies the alternatives are very few so for now it is a matter of reducing the need to use these products at events and working on more efficient and effective waste disposal options. It was not all bad, certain events made an effort to have compostable or recyclable products whilst others had recycling bins. Their efforts must be commended but sadly it is not enough. In reality most of those recyclable and compostable products were on the ground just like regular trash and most likely ended up in the landfills.

I seriously wondered if I was the only one bothered by what I saw. Everyone should have left those events enraged by the level of pollution but this was not the reality, the percentage of people that cared were few and this is where the issue of creating an environmentally aware culture arises. Yes I know it was carnival time and the fetes were epic but this is no behaviour to encourage or ignore.

Single-use plastics have proven to be the most pressing waste issue worldwide and Trinidad and Tobago is no different. In T&T, over eight thousand tonnes of plastics are disposed of at the nation’s landfills annually, which in my opinion is just way too much. Imagine the volume of waste that was doesn’t make it to the landfills! Where does it go ? From the land it enters our drains and water systems eventually reaching out to sea. One thing for certain is plastic waste definitely does not belong in our oceans. According to SWMCOL, approximately 1,500 tonnes of waste entering the country’s three landfills daily is recyclable. I am almost certain if we were to examine the waste produced during the carnival season more than 75% of that waste was recyclable but instead it is going to either sit in a landfill for thousands of years or pollute our oceans.

Parade of the Bands

The Streets of Port-of-Spain and environs were disgusting!

On Carnival Tuesday I went into the Queens Park Savannah to watch the many carnival bands cross the Savannah Stage. Surprisingly I really enjoyed myself. There was a steady flow of bands, no section or band spent hours on the stage and it was really nice watching people live their best lives on the stage. When I left the Savannah in the afternoon however, this is when I was totally disgusted at what I saw. The streets were flooded with rubbish, no drain was left unclear and the pavements were a complete mess. Again, was I the only one seeing this ?

Maybe everyone was enjoying the music and atmosphere so much that they just could not see the rubbish beneath their feet. Or maybe this was something they were accustomed to? I really don’t know, I tried so hard to make sense of what I was seeing and the only conclusion I came too is that as an environmentalist in this nation I am failing, moreover, the relevant institutions are failing and we as a nation have complete disregard for our surroundings.

This time however, I knew I was not alone there was on outrage on social media concerning the state of the streets and the Mayor of Port-of-Spain also commented on the issue.

Again bins in the area were few and far between and could not support the volume of waste being produced. The root of the problem is not however the quantity of bins or even the usage of these products it is the blatant disconnect that citizens have with the environment.

If an individual sees nothing wrong with throwing their trash on the floor then placing more bins or creating greener products or introducing recycling programs is not going to work because the mindset has not changed and the importance of keeping the environment clean has not been recognised. This is scarier than any amount of waste produced.

If people want to litter they will litter unless they understand why this behaviour is wrong!

Efforts were made by some bands to keep their lunch areas clean with adequate waste disposal bins and efficient clean up crews .

Plastic is versatile, lightweight, flexible, moisture resistant, strong, and relatively inexpensive. Those are the attractive qualities that has fed our voracious appetite and led to the over-consumption of plastic goods. The reality is plastic materials ultimately becomes waste with staying power. Our tremendous attraction to plastic, coupled with an undeniable behavioral habit of increasing over-consumption, discarding, littering and thus pollution, has become a lethal combination. To date scientist are finding plastic materials on all corners of the earth, in our soil, our water, our crops you name it. I don’t know about you but plastic is not a seasoning I am thrilled to have in my food.

I can go on and on but in my heart I know I had to bring this to the nations’ attention and work on being part of the solution. Carnival is the most joyous, freeing,mind blowing experience that can literally make you forget all your stress and problems. However, pollution needs to not be part of the celebrations so let’s brain storm, have discussions and create action plans to change the mindset of people and facilitate that behaviour change that our country drastically needs.

Environmental Pride is National Pride”

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1 thought on “Mas Trash

  1. Great read. Amazing insight. I had a problem with the amount of waste I saw on the road too. You articulated a lot of people’s sentiments so well

    Liked by 1 person

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