Published: May 20. 2008 09:07AM
Trashing Bermuda


Two recent stories tell a disappointing story about Bermuda and the environment.

First, the rejuvenated Keep Bermuda Beautiful organisation identified no fewer than 100 roadside locations which were being used for heavy trash dumping (as opposed to the bottle thrown out of window into convenient bush locations) and cleaned up a good many of them this weekend. KBB deserves credit for its work, but it means that far too much trash is not making it to the incinerator, the recycling plant or the Airport Dump.

Second, an audit of trash which actually made it to the Tynes Bay Incinerator showed that few people are separating their garbage as they are asked to as part of Government's recycling programme. Instead, glass, tin and aluminium, along with compostable materials, are being torched instead of reused.

That's not a great story for a tourism destination that has always prided itself on its cleanliness and natural beauty. Nor is it a positive story for an island that should care for its environment.

To compound the problem, dumped trash is also a prime breeding spot for mosquitoes, increasing the risk that should – or when – dengue fever make it to Bermuda, the risks of its spreading are even higher.

What's to be done? One piece of good news last week was the announcement by the Lindo's grocery chain to get rid of paper bags and to replace them with reusable bags. This should see a reduction in trash, a global savings in the loss of trees and a heightening of awareness generally. It is a fantastic decision by a large Bermuda business. If the other grocery chains followed suit, it would be an enormous step forward for Bermuda.

It is also exactly the kind of environmentally friendly move by private enterprise that should be encouraged.

Despite periodic public relations blitzes by Government, efforts to encourage recycling have always been somewhat half-hearted and now need to be redoubled, especially with the construction of the new recycling plant at the Government Quarry.

People must recognise that littering is just the thin edge of the wedge. As with the broken window theory of crime (in which a broken window in a neighbourhood is the first sign of an increase in crime) so littering says that people do not care about their general environment. First a wrapper or bottle is tucked into a hedge. Next comes a small appliance, then a refrigerator and finally a truck or car.

This can also result in more crime and general degradation of the neighbourhood. Why? Because trash says that the residents do not care about their surroundings.

To that end, public awareness of littering needs to be increased and so do the penalties and enforcement. But this also means that people need to be "helped" with proper waste disposal with more trash cans and the like.

Here too, the Corporation of Hamilton needs to be credited with the installation of the first few "butt posts" in Hamilton. More are needed to discourage cigarette smokers from stamping out butts on the ground.

Credit too is due to the organisers of the End to End Walk for encouraging people to bring their own water bottles with them this year; this should be mandatory for all charity walks and runs in future.

Some of these steps are small. But individuals can make a difference, and a cleaner Bermuda is a better Bermuda.

See the original article in The Royal Gazette