JIS News

Story Highlights

  • ‘Recycle Now Jamaica’, the newly launched national recycling initiative, is getting widespread backing from government, the private sector and environmentalists.
  • The project will recycle Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles.
  • PET can be recycled into many new products such as packaging material for food containers and automotive parts.

‘Recycle Now Jamaica’, the newly launched national recycling initiative, is getting widespread backing from government, the private sector and environmentalists, who are looking at the immediate and long term benefits of the project.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, has publicly expressed his commitment to the success of the project which will recycle Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles. PET can be recycled into many new products such as packaging material for food containers, automotive parts such as headliners, bumpers, and door panels, and is seen as a potential earner of foreign exchange.

While addressing the launch event at Knutsford Court Hotel, the Minister pledged the support of the Environmental Management Division of his Ministry, and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), to provide the necessary technical support to ensure that the initiative is successful.

Recycle Now Jamaica is expected to get underway in May 2014, and is being spearheaded by the government and leaders in the manufacturing industry, who have come together to form a non-profit, public/private organization called Recycling Partners of Jamaica.

The initiative will involve an island-wide campaign to collect PET bottles using depositories at four strategically selected sites.  Collection will be done using the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) as a primary vehicle and is expected to employ over 300 persons. Persons will be paid by the weight of the bottles collected.

The Ministry of Finance has given a commitment of J$150 million over three years in grant support for the project because of its importance to the environment, the economy and the creation of job opportunities.  The private sector grouping has also given a commitment of J$63.21 million over the same three-year period.

Minister Pickersgill observed that plastic bottles are among the most widely used items on a daily basis, with most liquids being consumed contained in PET bottles.

He informed that approximately 10 percent of plastics manufactured worldwide end up in the ocean, with most of it settling on the ocean floor where it will never degrade.

“The Ocean Conservatory has estimated that every square mile of ocean has over 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.  That is a frightening statistic as plastic caps and bottles are often mistaken for food by marine life,” he stated.

The Minister told JIS News that a lot of attention is being placed on the “Green Economy” and rightly so, but he stressed, that the “Blue Economy” was of equal importance.

“Everything that is on land is also replicated in the sea. What plastics are doing has to be controlled. So when we collect, the mantra is recycle, reduce and re-use,” he emphasised.

Minister Pickersgill said Recycle Now Jamaica, is in line with his Ministry’s policy direction and highlighted a longstanding commitment made by government as far back as in 2006, when the environmental levy was introduced.

“The government of the time envisioned that the collection of the levy at the ports of entry would provide sustainable funding, not only for the Solid Waste Management programme, but for the landscaping and physical improvement of the country as well,” he stated.

Mr. Pickersgill informed that the effort has gained the support of three government ministries, private sector manufacturers and distributors of PET bottles, and an international conglomerate involved in the local business sector.

Supporting the project are the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development; Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change; and Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing; while private sector support include that of  the Wisynco Group; Pepsi -Cola Jamaica; Grace Kennedy Foods and Services; Jamaica Beverages, Trade Winds Citrus and Seprod Limited.

This support for the initiative is being hailed by Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies, as an excellent example of a ‘joined-up-government approach to creating solutions.  His ministry’s support and participation comes through the JEEP secretariat.

“The success of the project will go a far way in enhancing this country,” Dr. Davies declared, adding that the project would lead to the creation of a minimum of 300 new jobs.

Dr. Davies also gave some reassurance to entrepreneurs currently engaged in similar PET bottle collection activities, that Recycle Now Jamaica, would not crowd them out.

“Let me use this opportunity to assure them that rather than viewing this new venture as competition, this new initiative will assist in expanding your business. Simply put, there are enough PET bottles to be collected for everyone involved,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Vice President of CBC (bottlers of Pepsi-Cola in Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America), Jose Sanabria, told JIS News that they are not limiting themselves to a financial participation as they want to play an active role in the project.

“We believe that this alliance between the public and private sector is very important because if we all have the same goal, then that’s what’s going to make it work. We think it’s a good thing and the public will soon recognize this as it brings jobs and education on how to recycle. The best thing about it is that it’s an industry initiative,” he noted.

After the first three years, the projections are that the initiative will be reclaiming just over a third of the PET bottles which are on the island and this will be in stages of 15 percent reclamation in Year 1; 25 percent reclamation in Year 2l and 35 percent reclamation in Year 3.

“If and when this target is achieved, there will be remaining two-thirds of the bottles which can be collected by the existing private operators or by any additional entities which will enter the sector,” Dr. Davies disclosed.

Meanwhile, Minister Pickersgill pointed out that in 2012, some 4,000 volunteers removed nearly ¼ ton of trash from local beaches, in particular on the three mile strip of beach at Fort Rocky on the Palisadoes strip in Kingston. Over 4000 pounds of trash were collected which included over 6,200 plastic bottles,  the largest category of debris at that site.

Last year over 800 bags of garbage weighing more than 12,300 pounds, was removed from the same beach site along the Palisadoes. The majority of the collected waste was plastic. More than 14,000 plastic bottle caps, 13,000 plastic bottles and 9,000 smaller pieces of plastic were removed from the beach showing more than 100 percent increase in the number of plastic bottles gathered at that site in 2013 compared to 2012.