Efforts to ban plastic are a positive step initiated by many actors, though for the complete omission of plastics, we must first understand how plastic is integrated within several domains of our lives. There are many jobs linked to the plastic industry from hygiene and sanitary products to mobility and consumer goods. For consumers, this means that even a simple thing as a morning cappuccino, in-office lunch or take-away dinner can be difficult without the use of plastic. This makes plastic use and its disposal a challenge. Likewise, it makes plastics not just an environmental issue, but a sustainable development one.
A few measures can be adopted to address the issue of plastics. First, a systematic assessment can help us navigate the economic and sociocultural implications of plastics in the lives of people. The magnitude of the plastic pollution challenge requires innovative thinking and action. As an example, personally, I have dedicated time through an island-wide initiative (Barbados International Coastal Cleanup) to collect and compile marine debris from the ocean. The initiative started with one annual beach cleanup in 1998, by 2017 we have expanded coverage to 50 beaches. We have removed approximately 148,000 pieces of debris in the last three years; 32,049 in 2015, 58,279 in 2016 and 57,551 in 2017, surpassing our efforts in the previous 16 years.
Second, as youth, we must identify the most pressing issues to us and seek policy solutions, which we can then use to lobby authorities for action. From our assessment of the debris collected, 50 per cent came from single-use plastics. The other types were beverage containers broken down into 15,828 pieces of plastic bottle caps and 10,957 bottles.
From my experience, engaging the public to take interest in such activities requires a participatory approach. This can allow individuals to develop personal commitments toward beating plastic pollution. In our project, we often invite community members to assist in data collection. This has allowed us to reach out to over 2000 people in the last three years. Such community members have been eager to participate and contribute to our efforts, including our plan to ensure a sustainable development approach to plastics.
Sade Deane is the National Coordinator of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in Barbados. She is responsible for engagement and participation of youth in environmental and sustainable development issues. Sade coordinates the Barbados International Coastal Clean-up (BICC) which is the first island-wide and primary data collecting /monitoring mechanism for marine debris. Sade is formally trained in Tourism and Project Management at the UWI-Cave Hill and certified in Sustainable Consumption and Production Approaches and Practical Tools course offered by UNITAR.