The Tobago Recycling Resource Initiative (TRRI) has launched its Sargassum clean-up programme 2023 – Alleviate Sargassum Action Programme (ASAP).
Speaking with Newsday on Friday at Lambeau beach, managing director Shawn Roberts said ASAP is in now its second year.
“As much as the sargassum is a burden for us, it could be a blessing,” he said. “Our intention for the TRRI is to sensitise people."He said sargassum is "something that affects us if you don’t manage it properly," and can affect the livelihoods of many people.
"We are trying to make people become more aware of the importance of keeping the beaches clean and free of sargassum.”
The TRRI, he said, is a public-private partnership programme in collaboration with the Tobago House of Assembly, the Environmental Management Authority and the Green Fund.
“That was launched in November 2020, where we collect all the recyclables – plastic bottles, aluminium cans, Tetra packs and the glass bottles and cardboard...We process it at our recycling facility, and that is for exporting. Right now, we are in the recovery phase of the programme until we start to fully recycle materials in TT.”
He said in 2022, the TTRI adopted the sargassum project for the first time, and removed 300 tonnes of sargassum from the Lambeau beach.
"When we saw predictions that this year would be worst, in terms of the amount of sargassum that is expected to come to shore, we decided to make it an annual event.”
He said the 2023 initiative has started “pretty good” as the team has been ably assisted by youths from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) programme.
“We work closely with the CCC. In beach clean-ups, conservation is part of the programme. What we did last year is that we trained them how to harvest the sargassum. The next phase is how to further process it for reuse.”
He said the TRRI is focusing on vermicomposting, a process that relies on earthworms and micro-organisms to help stabilise active organic materials and convert them to a valuable source of plant nutrient.
After the clean-up, the sargassum would be stored at two sites. A truck and a backhoe were on standby to help.
Though the clean-up took place only on one day, Roberts said the TRRI is working collectively with others.
“The plan really is for us to do it at least once or twice per month. The other stakeholders are willing to support with the logistics.”
He added: “We also intend to train farmers who are into composting to be able to store and even process the sargassum for reuse through the different applications."