The story of the bottle cap is one that resonates with all of us. As we traverse our beautiful tropical islands, plastic bottles can be found in our environment including at our beaches. While we pride ourselves on being Caribbean people, too often we do not protect the very land and sea that gives us this privilege. While littering may not seem like a “big deal” on the contrary, the environmental impact can be quite large. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the Caribbean is the second most plastic contaminated sea in the world (UNEP, 2019) with plastic bottles being the most common plastics found in our waters (Birds Caribbean, 2019). This can have major implications on marine life, such as lacerations, suffocation and other forms of injury or illness (IUCN, 2021). Plastic waste can be regarded as a “silent killer” leading to the death of seabirds throughout the Caribbean (Bird Caribbean, 2019). Plastic is also known to affect the nesting, breeding and feeding of these animals, which may have consequences for the food chain. While the long term impact is unknown, we owe it to the future generations to minimize exposure as much as possible.
Inappropriate disposal of plastic bottles is not only a concern for the marine environment, it also poses a threat on land as it can be used as a breeding ground for mosquitoes when water settles in discarded plastic waste. Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, but pose many threats to human health such as the spread of dengue fever, zika virus, chikungunya and other related diseases.
Undoubtedly, plastic does more harm than good and it is time for us to think critically about our use and disposal of plastics and the harm to human and planetary health. We’ve made great strides in technological advancement and infrastructure, but we have the potential to create sustainable solutions to plastic pollution and address this crisis if we act now.
Healthy Caribbean Youth (HCY), the youth arm of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, is a regional group of young health advocates with various backgrounds who are passionate about promoting good health and supportive environments for children and youth.