A throwaway society is to blame for increasing amounts of trash on Bermuda’s beaches, environmentalists said yesterday.
Anne Hyde, executive director of Keep Bermuda Beautiful, said increased amounts of plastic waste on the island’s shores was down to the use of wasteful packaging driven by consumer convenience.
Ms Hyde said: “Over the years, we have noticed an increase in the volume of trash.
“It is harder to keep our beaches clean because of increased activity, more people, more consumption of food and drink at the beach, and the packaging that gets left behind.”
She said older generations might have taken a picnic from home with sandwiches wrapped in a tea towel and lemonade in a jar, and these would be reused again.
Ms Hyde added: “The modern conveniences of single-use packaging and takeaway foods mean that there is an enormous uptick in the creation of trash.
“We now face the consequences of convenience-driven consumerism and the residue of trash left behind.
She said marine debris also washes ashore with every tide and particularly during storms, with trash travelling from often thousands of miles away.
Plastic ocean pollution is a relatively new phenomenon that is now reaching epidemic proportions with a ‘minestrone soup’ of marine debris in all five major oceans.
Ms Hyde added that statistics showed production and usage of plastic was expected to double in the next 20 years and by 2050, there could be as many pounds of plastic in the ocean as pounds of fish.
She said: “Already plastics are found in 62 per cent of sea bird species and 100 per cent of sea turtle species.”
Ms Hyde added that the Parks Department did a good job raking major beaches but pointed out it often lacked the resources and manpower to empty trash cans before they overflowed.
She said: “Added to that is a small percentage of people who thoughtlessly and deliberately litter.”
She added there was also an increasing number of “caring individuals who are taking action, speaking out on social media and helping to clean up”.
Ms Hyde said KBB got a lot of complaints about marine debris on the “otherwise pristine beaches at Cooper’s Island”.
She added most complaints about local litter involved Horseshoe Bay Beach.
Ms Hyde said that Horseshoe Bay was one of the top-rated beaches in the world, but that Bermuda was “20 years behind” the rest of the top ten in its use of open barrel trash cans.
She explained: “An open barrel is exposed to the wind, rain and feral animals and offers no option to separate recycling from general trash.”
Ms Hyde said groups such as the Department of Parks, Works and Engineering, the concessionaire and the Bermuda Tourism Authority need to work together to solve the problem.
She added that poor enforcement of litter laws was also a problem.
Ms Hyde said: “It does no good to post signs or threaten bigger fines if there is no enforcement.” She added that the installation of more trash cans would only be useful if they were emptied on a regular basis and that government departments would have to set aside a budget to pay for them to be emptied and maintained.
Ms Hyde also emphasised that it was everybody’s responsibility to take action to cut down on litter.
She said: “If you know that you are going to party at the beach with your friends, think about taking a trash bag along in your beach bag.”
She added too many people still thought Government would clear up after them.
Ms Hyde said: “Instead, we should be encouraging everyone, every single person, to take responsibility, to take action, to help maintain our beautiful Island as a beautiful place that we are incredibly privileged to have landed in by heritage or some other means.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Parks, Works and Engineering, said around 15 complaints were received about trash on beaches between April and August 21, 2017.
She added that while Horseshoe Bay logged the most complaints, the Parks Department also dealt with complaints about Warwick Long Bay and Chaplin Bay during the America’s Cup.
The spokeswoman said South Shore beaches from Paget to Southampton were cleaned by parks employees three times a week and during peak season, from May to September, trash cans were emptied every day.
She added that “a beach crew will be implemented during peak season commencing 2018”.
The spokeswoman said: “Fortunately, we work closely with a number of volunteer groups who assist us with cleaning the beaches all year round.”