We managed very well without the plastics

Monday, May 21, 2018

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Dear Editor,

One must say a big “thank you” to the many volunteers who periodically relieve our beach environment of the plethora of plastics and other refuse. It is high time we strongly enforce our anti-litter laws or ban the importation of plastic bottles and styrofoam.

Viewing the many photos of clean-ups, it is quite hard to believe that at one time within the memory of many older Jamaicans, there were no plastic bottles, plastic plates, plastic cutlery, plastic cups or styrofoam containers in Jamaica. In fact, we managed very well without the plastics.

Children went to school with vacuum flasks — “Thermos” — of beverages. We drank out of enamel or ceramic cups and ate fresh fruit and sandwiches wrapped in “wax” paper. Beverages were made from fresh limes or sour oranges and sweetened with brown sugar. Cooks went to market with locally made straw baskets and “crocus bags”. Bread came from the bakery wrapped in brown paper and stores wrapped purchases in brown paper bags. Milk came in returnable glass bottles with cardboard lids. All glass bottles were returnable for credit and recycled. All vegetable peelings were returned to the soil in the vegetable garden. Leftovers were fed to “di fowl dem”. Paper and dried leaves were burned in a small pit. Baby diapers were made of “bird's eye cotton”, washed and dried in the sun.

Few people were overweight as they were not guzzling the quantity of highly sugar-sweetened soft drinks; therefore, diabetes and hypertension were not as prevalent. Drinking water came out of the pipe and was boiled if necessary. There was very little household garbage and very few mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases. In fact, Jamaica managed to eradicate malaria.

Now we are drowning in gullies full of garbage, killing fish, fighting off mosquitoes, and destroying our environment. Where did we go wrong? I think we know.

Dr E Marilyn Duff


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