Letters — 11 July 2018
The only PG trash used to be natural!

Dear Editor,

When we came to British Honduras in 1972 we came to the most undeveloped district—Toledo, where there was no plastic and no trash. The place was truly pristine. In Punta Gorda only the most basic foodstuffs were available and there was little packaging except for tea, matches, and toilet paper and of course tin cans.

Everything we bought required that we bring our containers or bottles to the store to have them filled.  Most women used brown cotton cloth to make bags for flour, sugar, beans and corn. If we paid we could get a brown paper bag. Most everyone used large carrying bags or baskets. And, of course there was the ever faithful tin wash-pan or pig-tail bucket.

The only trash in town was natural! Even cans got reused for various purposes: dippers, holders, and measuring devices. When they couldn’t be used for anything else they were put out under the trees, to “nurture” the soil. And cigarette packs made of cellophane were saved to keep our money dry! Nothing was wasted.

It was heart breaking when in the eighties PG joined the global consumer market. Suddenly, styrofoam and plastic bags was everywhere, mostly from “take-out.” Soon plastic water bottles became popular. People were accustomed to using mostly natural products like cloth, clay, calabash, and baskets which when thrown out, is easily bio-degrade.

When plastic came on the scene, they just treated it the same, and continue to do so.

Advertisers tell us we deserve comfort, ease and all the conveniences technology can give us. If they tell us so, often enough, they know we will come to believe it. But is it so? The truth is that our planet can’t absorb our conveniences. Perhaps we should not allow them to make us into selfish, shallow- minded consumers, buying without thought of our planet.

Through the years I have made suggestions in various letters-to-the-editor of ways to eliminate some of this trash, especially in the tourist industry. For example, if the resorts or tour guides provided a set of wooden eating utensils, a calabash bowl and a cloth napkin in a nice cloth bag or woven basket with the resort’s name on it, we would have less plastic spoons, forks and paper napkins in the environment and the tourist would have a very lovely, usable gift to remind him of his trip to Belize; good advertising.

Well, even the immigration people could hand out this nice welcoming gift along with a little speech about keeping The Jewel pristine. I’m guessing it would cost less than dealing with the trash and it would certainly help keep the environment healthier!

Perhaps all of us should consider carrying our own kit when we go out to eat or get take-out; we might eliminate the transfer of flu germs as well as make less trash. The best part is that it could provide someone a small cottage industry making these kits.

Plastic water bottles are a huge problem all over the country, on the beaches and in the sea. The ones I have I reuse over and over again, but they eventually become brittle and break. It is obvious that a recycling program for this item either isn’t viable or there is no will to enforce the agreements made when the bottling companies came on line.

It is only the consumer who can address this issue. In countries worldwide people are being encouraged to carry a solid water bottle. One solution is that every store, fuel station and restaurant provides a five gallon purified water bottle stand where consumers can refill their bottles for a minimum charge. Since the grocery owner benefits so much from the community this service could be considered a way to give back.

We can encourage the government to make stringent laws and enforcement for motor oil containers and other products that end up polluting the rivers and sea. We need better education for all water folk.

What about all the plastic sandals that end up on the beach? Shouldn’t/couldn’t we make appropriate footwear out of a natural bio-degradable material in country? Here is another opportunity for business and employment.

Also, why should only the tourist use lovely wooden, clay and calabash containers? It would give our artisans an alternative market.

Why should we have to import synthetic clothing that is so inappropriate for our climate when so many people could grow cotton or henequen and weave cloth; they do it in our neighboring countries.

And what about just using less? Pretty radical idea! This seems the most reasonable way to deal with trash, yet no one will talk about it. “It might hurt the economy” is an excuse for lazy thinking. By letting importers and marketers make the priorities we have put ours and the planet’s survival in jeopardy. We can live in a more natural way with natural products made by ourselves for each other. We did it in the past, and with a growing population, it is even more critical we do it now.

Think about it! We need to be smart and take action now; no one is going to save us from foolishness but ourselves. Make good choices!

With concern,
Christina Salisbury

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