Trashing Nevis

Environmentally Speaking – a column addressing environmental issues and concerns pertinent to St. Kitts and Nevis submitted by the Conservation and Biodiversity Committee of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society.

Trash on Beach

The official statistics of NHCS’s twentieth annual Coastal Cleanup held September 17th, 2011 have been released in the Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 report,” Trash Free Seas.” A total of 198 people picked up 6,245 pounds of garbage on 7.6 miles of Nevis’ coastline. This is an astounding amount of garbage for one morning’s work and serious cause for concern about the health of our coastline. Pollution is one of the greatest threats to our marine life yet it can be prevented.

Items found of particular note include a child’s car seat at Nisbet Plantation, a toilet plunger at Tamarind Bay, a wedding dress at Bath Stream, school chairs at Gallows Bay, a vehicle radiator at Herbert’s Beach, a refrigerator and car bumper at Coconut Walk, a chair frame and pink bath mat on Hunkins Drive, 18 tires on Long Point Road, and Christmas decorations at Long Haul Bay. Surely not your usual beach fare, and we can’t blame the tourists for leaving these household items on our beaches! They were likely left on the beach or in ghauts that carried them to the edge of the ocean in heavy rain by our residents.

The twenty three groups that participated in the Cleanup in 2011 filled out detailed forms counting each item. The NASPA Sports and Social Club picked up 519 plastic bottles at the beach running along our airport runway, volunteers from Four Seasons collected 92 bottles on Pinney’s Beach, workers from Her Majesty’s Prison at Maddens bagged 246 plastic bottles on Long Point Road, 62 plastic bottles were taken from Lovers’ Beach by the Nevis Turtle Group and 306 bottles were picked up by the Girl Guides at Gallows Bay. However, NHCS won the prize for the most plastic bottles with over 1000 collected from Coconut Walk on the Windward side of the island. It must, however, be noted that on this side of Nevis the currents bring in trash from the sea that we do not claim as ours. For example, a lot of the labeling on the Windward side is in French, indicating its origin in Guadeloupe.

Indeed, plastic items were our main concern with a total of 4006 bottles taken off the coastline in one day. They are listed on the data card as “Shoreline and Recreational Activities” and take about 450 years to breakdown in water. If we do not pick them up we will be looking at them for a very long time. More importantly, as the oceans become more polluted with plastics, the fish will be ingesting the plastic and so will humans.

At the Nelson Spring Project Phase II, 51 plastic bottles, 5 nails, 5 pieces of board, 30 glass bottles, 20 beverage cans, 30 food wrappers, and 21 caps and lids were bagged and removed in a direct correlation to the construction site. The litter left at different beaches in Nevis matches the activities performed. Lube and oil bottles are found at spots were fisherman congregate and plastic utensils, plastic cups and food containers tell us that picnickers have recently visited. One can even identify the spots were drugs are sold by the prevalence of small plastic bags.

The effort on Hunkins Drive puts the whole cleanup and state of litter on Nevis in a nutshell. On the data card each group is asked “to identify and count three items found that concern you.” The response of the Hunkins Drive group was one, “the amount of plastic bottles, (300), two,” no garbage bins available”, three, “bus of people drove by laughing at us cleaning up the rubbish.” So here we have the bottling plant in St. Kitts making a transition from recyclable glass bottles to disposable plastic bottles with no plan in place to dispose of these plastics. Education, more bins and a recycling plan were certainly needed for this change. There are several shoreline areas that are in need of garbage bins. Many favorite picnic beaches and fisherman spots do not have bins. The bus of people laughing at a community cleanup effort is the most alarming detail of all. Where are we going wrong with our efforts to educate our population regarding the unsightliness of litter and its potential danger to our environment and human health?

Let us address the issues. Let us reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we can and let us dispose of our garbage properly. Let us continue to educate our population about the consequences of litter. It is against the law to litter in Nevis, so obey the law. Nevis, we can do better. Nevis, we are better.

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