Thu | Nov 14, 2019

Christopher Serju | Where are the ‘plastic only’ bins for Norman Manley Airport?

Published:Tuesday | October 22, 2019 | 12:17 AM

On Thursday, October 17, I went to the Norman Manley International Airport where I was delighted to find ‘plastic only’ garbage bins in the check-in area, into which I enthusiastically deposited two empty water bottles.

When I transitioned to the departure lounge, with lots of time on my hands and a little money in my pocket, I enjoyed a Yabba offering from the Island Grill menu and after separating the fork, its plastic wrapper and medium-sized cup from the meal container, sought to dispose of them in separate garbage bins.

After walking the length and breadth of the departure lounge, twice, I came to the realisation that there were no dedicated bins in place for disposing of my plastic.

As I puzzled over the fact that I had just left the check-in area where this anomaly did not exist, I marvelled that it could not have been beyond the combined competencies of Senator Matthew Samuda, who had so vigourously championed the ban on single-use plastic, and Daryl Vaz, minister with responsibility for the environment portfolio, to wrest from the private sector, even one such bin.

As I checked that there was an abundance of garbage bins, all clearly marked ‘NMIA’, and looked inside a few to find a combination of organic, plastic and other garbage, I did an informal audit of at least five concession outlets which were peddling hundreds of bottled water, soda and other drinks, and enquired of an attendant whether or not they had separate bins.

After puzzling over my question, when understanding finally dawn as to what I meant, she emphatically answered “No”.

Thereafter, I reluctantly threw my plastic into one of the bins, but my wonderment continued unabated.

How could this be?

How could this be, and what were the options open to the people tasked with the garbage collection and disposal? Would they need to hire extra staff, clothed in protectives gloves, masks and goggles to protect them from the odour and risk of exposure to germs, to sort the garbage?

That could not be the answer, I argued with myself, and the only logical conclusion arrived at was that someone had really messed up on the day in question and forgotten to put out the ‘Plastic Only’ bins, or had taken them all to be emptied or washed.

Then I did a little more travelling in mind and began to wonder what did all the government ministers, officials and diplomats and members of the consular corps do with all the plastic used when they travelled through the airport on such a day?

I was reminded of an observation by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) this month that “Plastic bottles continued to be the number-one item collected by volunteers at the JET clean-up site in 2019”, and called to mind a declaration by its CEO, Suzanne Stanley, in September last year, as she awaited the countdown to the ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam.

She argued then that Jamaicans need to understand that littering does not provide jobs, it only destroys the environment, and if allowed to continue unchecked, without doubt will cause massive disruption of life.

“The notion that if garbage is improperly disposed of in our gullies and streams, on our roadways and at every corner, we are simply giving someone a job to clean it, is more than irresponsible. It is careless and nasty,” said Stanley.

“What we are ultimately doing is killing our children’s future and our planet.”Since they missed it then, someone needs to get her message to the relevant authorities as a matter of urgency. Our future depends on it!

Christopher Serju is a reporter covering agriculture, the environment and rural affairs. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com or christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com.