It’s been over a month now since I returned from Panama/Bocas Del Toro, and I still don’t know what to say about it.
It was such a beautiful place, and it was hard not to focus on the trash aspect since it was in your face most places.
It sucked taking a boat to uninhabited islands and seeing all kinds of plastics washed up on the shores. It clearly wasn’t taken there and left behind, it was dropped off by the ocean.
Broken plastic chairs, pieces of styrofoam products, plastic bottles. It seems like no matter where you go, these items will follow you. What would a world look like without plastics?
I had learned that Bocas del Toro had just recently started a recycling program, and up to that point had nothing in place. On top of that, going to the local restaurants and convenience stores indicated that they were living the single use life.
It really put a different perspective on things, since the string of islands had such a small population and you could essentially pinpoint exactly what establishments the litter was coming from: red plastic bags were everywhere, and one store on the island was using them. I got really pissed when I saw a 2 liter bottle purchase get placed in a bag…I thought this was just Amurrican behavior, but I was wrong.
I started to think that the locals haven’t really thought much about litter, but maybe I’m just imagining that. The travel hostels that I stayed at all seemed to have composting efforts in place (keep in mind I was trying to support “eco friendly” hostels), but none of them were as comprehensive as they could be. That being said, The Firefly did a damn good job.
Many common uncertainties were brought up, such as: “Doesn’t the bleach in the paper mean I can’t compost it?” or “The pile is full of bugs and smells really bad, I don’t know what to do.” Really simple stuff to overcome, but for some reason the world’s oldest natural process isn’t quite at the forefront like it should be.
The paper thing kills me, because napkins, paper towels, tissue and receipts are all perfect for composting and make up quite a bit of waste. Especially in a place where it’s hard to find sufficient “brown materials” necessary for composting, the answer was right there in their own purchases.
It was reassuring to be able to help assess compost piles and try to teach some tips and tricks to get them psyched on composting…even on my vacation, I’m at work. 🙂
It was a fine line to tread, though. I can’t always tell when I’m overstepping my boundaries by trying to honestly help someone out and improve their situation, and not come off like a pompous wanker.
Minimize your plastic consumption. Non-plastic products existed for most everything at one point, so bring them back. Straws, cups, packaging, you name it. Paper and cardboard aren’t perfect by any means, but at least they break down and give the gift of compost when re-purposed correctly…this is especially important if recycling isn’t available for such materials.
I’ve lost my confidence in plastics being dealt with reliably…check out the book Plastic Free and see how you can be inspired by it.