In its morning broadcasts on the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN), the Grenada Solid Waste Management Authority (GSWMA) has been interviewing members of the public on the topic of litter. Comments have been revealing, but not surprising:
“The best way to deal with litterers is to charge them a heavy fine”, said a bus conductor.
“Punish those who leave trash,” said a member of the public.
“It won’t stop until we take action. Authorities taking no mind.”
“We need a law so they pay a fine if they litter.”
“There should be punishment — financial — imprisonment.”
This came as no surprise to the Grenada Green Group. Every month, on the first Wednesday, we appear on MTV’s Your Health and You programme with Dr Marryshow. Every month, we discuss litter from some angle: garbage, blocked drains, rats, chikungunya, dengue, damage to tourism and Grenada’s image; the toxicity of plastics whether burned or unburned; the poisoning of our soil and of the ocean; harm to wildlife and to ourselves.
And every time, someone phones in to say that we need a law, we need fines, as part of the battle to tackle littering.
We already have that law. It came into force in August 2015. There is a $100 fine for a first littering offence, and it doubles if you do it again. There are heavy fines for dumping. There is provision for imprisonment if fines are not paid. There is provision for the appointment of litter wardens in addition to the police.
Now, 18 months later, what has happened? Not a lot: we have another law sitting on the shelf, unused, unenforced, as litter continues to be thrown into our ditches, as dumping continues from Mt Hartman to Savon Swayzee. People congratulate each other on the Christmas cleanup, the Independence clean-up, and a dozen more local clean-ups during the year. But clean-ups should not be necessary at all.
In the time taken for Grenada not to put its new law into force, Antigua has managed firstly to ban the import of plastic bags, then to ban them altogether. St Lucia and Barbados have overtaken us in introducing and enforcing littering laws. In most European countries, a tax on plastic bags has drastically reduced their use. There are alternatives to plastic — and expanded polystyrene ‘styrofoam’. They are in the shops now.
We have only to continue doing nothing to become the dirty man of the Caribbean (and much of the rest of the world: Rwanda banned plastic long ago). Impure Grenada. You, the reader, can join the Grenada Green Group (start with our Facebook), can resolve to stop using supermarket bags, to ‘stop the drop’, and to tell your children (or your adults) to do the same. And please ask your MP to enforce the 18-month-old Litter Act — the public is asking for it. Are YOU part of the solution — or of the problem?
Grenada Green Group