Twenty years ago, there was no plastic in Dominica. As we shelter from the rain and wind in Portsmouth, one of the two towns in Dominica, Chris, of the Portsmouth Community Watch Foundation, tells us how everything used to come in paper, and disposal didn’t pose such a threat to the environment.
Then came plastic bags, and later and Styrofoam food containers and cups. Like everywhere else on the planet, plastic became the cheaper and more convenient packaging option. Just a few years ago in Dominica, cola came in glass bottles with a deposit for their return, and they were cleaned and refilled, but then plastic bottles arrived. And like in so many places around the world, plastic items made their way into the forest, the drains and rivers, and ultimately into the sea.
However, Dominica is known as The Nature Island, and they are doing their best to control the plastic problem. Dominica now has pilot recycling schemes rolling out across the island, like their newly announced National Plastic Free day and their roadside collection of plastics. This is evidently a much better idea then throwing plastic into a drain to be carried out of sight and out of mind until it turns up in one of eXXpedition’s trawls, but Dominicans realise that the real solution is to eliminate the problem at the source, and stop using plastic for single-use items in the first place.
We spent today doing outreach in Dominica, meeting local school children and Dominican officials, to present our findings and learn about how the people in Dominica are working to reduce their plastic use. We talked about things that people can do as individuals, as schools, as communities – cutting down on the use of drinking straws, using refillable water bottles, not using Styrofoam.
Ann-Marie, the Recyclables Officer of Dominica Solid Waste Management Corporation, told us that people frequently double or triple bag their shopping in plastic bags, and they are looking at ways to stop this. Northern Food Supplies and H.H.V. Witchurch are sponsoring an initiative to get people taking reusable bags to the shops. There was also talk of higher taxes on the import of single use plastic, and a return to deposits on bottles so people will have incentive to dispose of items responsibly.
We also heard from lots of wonderful local school children who are working hard to spread the word. We spoke to the Portsmouth Secondary School Environmental Club, who have run clean-ups at school and at the local Benjamin Park and have lots of plans for their own outreach, particularly regarding Styrofoam. Sunflower preschool sang for us, and Portsmouth Secondary also have an eco band, Green Gang, who performed their ‘Fight Climate Change Rap’ for us, which was brilliant, and at the end of the session we all sang it together with eXXpedition’s Rigmor taking the mic.
Dominica seems like a real case of #OceanOptimism, they spoke of a ‘ridge to reef’ approach, involving everyone on the island, and explained that the school children we spoke to today will go home and pass on the eXXpedition message to their friends, brothers, sisters, parents, everybody; the whole island working to together to reduce plastic pollution. They’re also great hosts – thanks for having us Dominica!
By Candy Medusa