A plea for more

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Our stance on the environment and desire to see a better Antigua & Barbuda has been met with a variety of negative labels over time, however, we wear those labels like badges, firm in our belief that the environment must be protected. We must do all that we can to ensure that we do not sell-out the future under the guise of “development”.
We have heard it all, from “tree huggers” to “mangroves do not employ people, hotels do”, and none of the arguments or insults have swayed us from our stance regarding the environment. For the record, we are not anti-development and we are not “economic terrorists”. We are for responsible economic development that looks holistically at our current situation and forges a plan for the future. 
It is worth noting that we are small, resource-restrained, developing island that is extremely vulnerable to climate changes – Barbuda, even more so.  It is for this reason that we must look at every way to preserve what we have and maximize it for everyone; now and in the future.
We felt this preamble was necessary because we were saddened when we heard the news that the Antigua & Barbuda Waste Recycling Corporation (ABWREC) may be forced to limit its operations, once again, due to lack of proper economic support. The Coolidge facility apparently did not receive the promised support from the National Solid Waste Management Authority and that has hampered operations.
There have been many people who have not bought into the idea of recycling due to one reason or another. From our vantage point, the only reason that anyone would not think that recycling is a good idea is because of a lack of knowledge. And we can understand why because there is essentially no education thrust beyond what the ABWREC disseminates. Considering their limited financial resources, one of the priorities that suffer is education.
Based on the reports from the Chairman of ABWREC, Mario Bento, the recycling facility was promised a subsidy of $10,000 per month in order to keep the operation alive and to continue doing the good work that they are. However, in the 18 months since that promise and announcement was made, only three months’ worth of payments have been distributed; the last of which was received some eight months ago.
Due to high recycling costs, and because the subsidy did not materialise, the ABWREC is now forced to stop accepting plastic bottles, aluminium cans and steel cans – the kind of waste that households produce on a regular basis and which mostly end up in the dump. Plastic bottles are of particular concern because they can take centuries to decompose. Some, depending on their composition, take over 1,000 years! That is a very long time, and worse, it is said that bottles made with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) will never biodegrade. Talk about leaving a legacy.
At this point, we hope you are wondering a little bit more about the beneficial effects of recycling.  Yes, it is costly, but the alternative costs way more because the alternative comes at a cost to our health and the environment. And it is this perspective that we, as a country, must look at recycling. Sure, the general thought is that dumping in Cooks Dump is cheaper and easier … but is it? It may be cheaper today, but what about the long run? What is the effect of millions of plastic bottles in our dump, in 100 years?
It would be easy to cast the blame on the government and say “fix it”, but the reality is that we need a change in the way we look at our environment and the negative impacts that we contribute towards and inflict on Mother Earth. We must each do our part to make our bit of paradise continue to hold that title. 
At the same time, the government must find ways of adopting a greener approach and lead the charge from in front. With all the studies that must be available, we are sure that they are more than a few that highlight the short, medium and long term benefits of recycling. And in that long list of benefits, we are sure that “economic benefits” feature prominently. 
The beauty about recycling is that it is a well-researched area. We do not need to re-invent the wheel. We just need to take a few steps towards the 3Rs every day and eventually the benefits will become apparent. (By the way, the 3R’s refer to “reduce”, “re-use” and “recycle”.)
As far as the ABWREC is concerned, we implore the government to take another look at their budgets and priorities and find a few dollars to help the organization to continue carrying the flame for recycling. We would also make the appeal to any other person or entity that would like to support the organisation to please come forward and do so, we are pretty sure that they would not be so proud as to refuse the assistance.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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