Living on the edge - T&Ts dumps a nightmare


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Category: Health 19 Sep 10

Ira Mathur interviews Dave Gajadhar, Logistics Manager of Carib Glass who says that despite incentives for cash for bottles, he has been struggling to meet his quota of returned glass which the company recycles.


Following our visit to the “La Basse,” the management of Solid Waste Management Company Ltd insisted during an edition of CNC3’s environmental series, Cleaning Up The Mess, that the nation’s dumps (which include Guanapo, Forres Park, Guapo and Studly Park in Tobago) were safe and not poisoning our produce or water table. However, Guardian environmental guest columnist Dr Azad Mohammed, scientist, eco-toxologist and lecturer at UWI wrote that plastic, when heated, (we dump up to 50 million plastic bottles every month) Styrofoam, paper and electronics can generate some of the most deadly toxins ever studied. The terrible news is that our dumps really are dumps and not landfills, contrary to statements from the management of the Solid Waste Management Company.


According to environmentalists this is the difference between a landfill and a dump: A modern landfill is lined with waterproof materials, such as clay and plastic, to prevent rainwater and other liquids from leaking waste into the environment by contaminating the ground. They have drains that capture liquids which are treated and water wells that are monitored for leaks. Landfills are covered each day with soil to keep birds, insects, rats, and other animals from moving in. The daily covering also keeps water and air out of the trash, which keeps the material from rotting too fast and creating bad smells. Dumps, on the other hand, are just big holes piled with garbage. They do not prevent the waste from coming into contact with the ground, they are full of rats, roaches, and other vermin, and they stink. Our crew has been there and sadly Beetham is a dump. It stinks.



Our multimedia drive to engage with the public on the environment has led to the discovery that Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most polluted island states in the world. On our Facebook page which is rapidly gaining momentum with some 1,000 members, pleas such as these have become familiar fare: “There should be a plant to incinerate garbage under strictly controlled conditions. T&T should ban the use of one-way plastic bottles and styrofoam for take away food. Those styrofoam plates and cups form about 50 per cent of the litter on beaches and around T&T. It’s disgusting. Ten years ago, take away food in T&T was sold in cardboard boxes, which is biodegradable and burns without hazard.”


We agree. There has been a draft of a bill that deals with the recycling of beverage containers since 2000. It’s been gathering dust. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago over the past ten years has failed to enact any legislation that deals with recycling. From manufacture, to purchase, to disposal citizens must know where to dispose and how. The people of T&T eagerly look forward to the result of Governments promised feasibility study on recycling and waste management legislation, and enforcement of litter and other environmental laws. What is alarming now is that scientists and medical doctors are saying that the state of our dumps could be contributing to soaring rates of cancer and other lifestyle diseases in the nation. As these images captured by Guardian photographer Keith Matthews indicate, if action is not taken now, the nation may be facing a man made industrial disaster.


Help clean up the mess. Look out for our environmental series Sundays, on CNC3 at 10.30am and 6 pm, and guest columns in the Thursday Guardian. Send in your photos and comments to cleaningupthemess and join our facebook page on



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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur