From me to the sea: let’s put a lid on our trash cans
This is part of a series marking World Oceans Day highlighting the growing problem of pollution on the marine environment
Perhaps you thought this was going to be an ode to the ocean, dotted with analogies and hyperboles — a poetic description of the staggering strength of her storm surges; her stunning serenity at sunset or a plea to save her from the plight of plastics?
No, this is a simple story of how this dedicated beach cleaner and ocean advocate may have unwittingly contributed to marine debris.
If I am such a diligent ocean steward, then how did my trash leave me and find its way to the sea? With the waves and the wind come classic stories like ...
Trash that once was so carefully placed into a waste bin or receptacle is no match for a Bermuda windy day. With a swoosh of salty breeze, the hollow bins have the effect of a straw sucking the unsuspecting trash bags and bin liners upwards and outwards, along with any debris that it held. A gentle gust might only pull the top trash out of the bin but you do not have to be a sailor or be able to recite the Beaufort Scale to understand and recognise how quickly an island’s weather can change from a “gentle” or “fresh breeze” to “gale-force gusts” and along with that the challenges of strong, and sometimes relentless, wind.
Open-top bins are found throughout the island along roadsides, at our parks, forts and beaches. If I see a bin is close to being full, I will usually just bring the debris home with me or find a different receptacle. However even a partially filled bin is as susceptible to losing its debris to the sea by the sheer suction force of the wind.
Many home and business owners also utilise open style outdoor bins and trash tips which can readily become overfilled with users not just “throwing caution to the wind”, but throwing their debris to the mercy of the wind.
Sometimes we spend so much time “putting Band-Aids” on our problems — such as picking up trash after the fact, or trying to tackle global challenges by waiting for the perfect large-scale solution — that we miss the small actions that we can do now to effect change.
According to the dictionary, “Put a lid on” means “to stop (something) from growing or becoming worse”. But in the case of Bermuda’s marine debris challenge, we can help stem the problem by literally putting a lid on one of the primary sources — open-air bins and trash receptacles.
There may be a cost and it takes time to make the change, but the solutions are simple. Change the receptacle to one with a lid, move it to a sheltered location far away from the water’s edge or find creative ways to cover or enclose open-air bins. Over time this will reduce the chances of properly disposed debris from becoming airborne accidentally and finding its way from me to the sea.
• Sundée Faulkner is sales and outreach manager at Dolphin Quest and a member of the Bermuda Marine Debris Taskforce, a group of environmental and research organisations that aims to promote awareness of the impact of marine debris landing on Bermuda’s beaches and affecting marine life and to propose solutions to the growing problem