- A programme implemented by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) three years ago, to help solve Jamaica’s plastic waste problem, is gaining traction and building environmental awareness in schools, communities and Government offices.
- The plastic separation project, piloted in May 2012, is helping to address the significant threat to the environment caused by improper disposal of plastic bottles, by encouraging the separation of plastic containers from regular waste, for collection by the NSWMA.
- Former Executive Director of the NSWMA, Jennifer Edwards, tells JIS News that the success seen from this project is an indication that Jamaicans are prepared to separate their waste at source.
A programme implemented by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) three years ago, to help solve Jamaica’s plastic waste problem, is gaining traction and building environmental awareness in schools, communities and Government offices.
The plastic separation project, piloted in May 2012, is helping to address the significant threat to the environment caused by improper disposal of plastic bottles, by encouraging the separation of plastic containers from regular waste, for collection by the NSWMA.
In addition to reducing the pollution of the natural environment, the project aims to cut the volume of waste going to the disposal sites. Jamaicans are estimated to throw away one million plastic bottles each month, which end up in rivers and gullies. It takes an average of 450 years for plastic to begin to decompose.
The NSWMA says as a result of the project, approximately 152 schools across the island are now successfully separating plastic from their regular waste along with several Government ministries and agencies.
Bath Primary and Junior High School in St. Thomas is one institution that has seen significant improvements as a result of the project.
Vice Principal of the school, Beverly Edmondson-Edwards, tells JIS News that students are more aware of the need to protect the environment and to keep their surroundings clean, which has resulted in the school placing second in a clean schools competition staged by the NSWMA.
“It has been really good,” Mrs. Edmondson-Edwards says. “The children have participated, it has become a part of them, where they even collect bottles from anywhere in the district,” she adds.
The students have found creative ways of using the bottles they collect which, the Vice Principal says, is bringing great attention to the school.
The plastic bottles are used in art and craft lessons, and are attractively decorated and arranged along the chain-link fence to form inspirational messages. The students have also used the plastic bottles to create seating around the school compound.
“This has been really motivating. People have come to look at it and find out how it is done and how they can do it in their homes or schools,” Mrs. Edmondson-Edwards says proudly.
She notes that the project involves the wider community as residents are encouraged to bring their plastic waste to the school. “So…we don’t have those bottles …in the trees, in the drains and on the roadsides,” she points out.
The Vice Principal also credits the programme for improved performances in science and mathematics subjects.
“We use (the plastics) in lessons; children collect them when they are doing measurement, so they have bottles of different types and shapes, and they realise that for example, a litre bottle doesn’t have to necessarily be the standard way. They have different shapes, but it is still a litre,” she explains.
Currently, the school is undertaking a major project using plastic bottles to build a retaining wall at the front of the school, which is expected to be completed soon.
“We collected bottles, and we sort them so we have a pattern, and we use them to build the wall. Nothing else is in it; we just use the bottles and the concrete mixture like how you would lay your brick and the cement. Our bottle is our brick,” Mrs. Edmondson- Edwards explains.
Another project, which involves utilising plastic bottles for drip irrigation, has landed the school first place at the parish and regional levels in the Jamaica 4-H Clubs’ school gardening competition.
The Vice Principal is encouraging other schools to do their research and find ways to start similar projects in their schools because of the environmental impact and possible revenue to be earned.
For her, the practice of separating plastic bottles from garbage will be beneficial to the collectors of waste, the health of environment and for the country on a whole.
“So, you reduce the waste in your school, you reduce the waste at the landfills and at the dumps, and you keep planet earth clean and safe, because you don’t have this excess bottles to burn, so you have less carbon dioxide going up into the atmosphere,” she contends.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce is one of several Government entities actively participating in the plastic separation project.
The Ministry started the project in January 2015 and members of staff are now practising separating their waste even at home.
Director of Procurement and Office Services at the Ministry, Marlene Ellis, tells JIS News that the project has been going well with staff involvement steadily increasing.
She says getting members of staff to use the special bins provided by the NSWMA to store the plastic bottles is not difficult. “The bins are quite big and often, the two bins are full and overflowing,” Ms. Ellis says.
She says the office attendants at the Ministry are also involved in the project and often helps with separating plastic bottles from regular garbage at the office.
Overall, Ms. Ellis says the Ministry’s involvement is an example of the Government leading by example on an issue that has national impact.
“We know that part of the clean-up of the environment is to separate our garbage properly, especially these things that are not easy to breakdown….otherwise we are heading for trouble if we don’t start to separate and to practise proper ways to dispose of our waste,” Ms. Ellis opines.
At the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), which joined the project in September 2014, the staff is also responding well to the initiative.
Office Manager, Rosalee Fraser, says in addition to placing the plastic bottles in the specially marked bins provided by the NSWMA, staff members are also encouraged to store their plastic bottles at home and take them into the office on the last Friday of each month for collection by the NSWMA.
Former Executive Director of the NSWMA, Jennifer Edwards, tells JIS News that the success seen from this project is an indication that Jamaicans are prepared to separate their waste at source.
She tells JIS News that private companies are now assisting the NSWMA, by removing plastic bottles from schools, and some institutions are earning from this initiative.
The former Executive Director is also pleased that persons have been receptive to the NSWMA’s ongoing work to reduce the generation of waste through recycling.
She informs that of the six communities, which participated in the pilot, “two in Kingston still continue, plus another one that joined on their own, and in Manchester, we still have two communities that are actively recycling.”
A total of 6,000 pounds of plastic were collected during the successful pilot, which was undertaken in several communities across the island.