Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Coastal clean-up: distress and joy

Published:Tuesday | September 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM


On Saturday, September 15, thousands of Jamaicans turned out to clean Jamaica's beaches on International Coastal Clean-up Day. Two days later, torrential rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Isaac has undoubtedly undone their efforts, bringing ever more waste from land to sea. What was the point of cleaning the beaches then?

On Monday, September 17, the Government of Jamaica announced a ban on certain types of single-use plastic, including plastic (scandal) bags, drinking straws and styrofoam. A deposit return scheme for plastic bottles is to come.

Why did this happen now? After decades of advocacy by many, the action this week was precipitated by a young senator, Matthew Samuda, with a private member's motion calling for a ban on styrofoam and plastic bags. This led to a task force, consultations, a research study by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, more consultations, and finally the major step that was announced on Monday.

As a student, Senator Samuda went to several beach clean-ups as a member of Campion College's environmental club, Green Generation, and their Key Club. This is the value of International Coastal Clean-up Day.

Jamaica's solid waste problem is so systemic and so enormous that a day of clean-ups won't make much of a dent - but those few hours when thousands of young people confront what we have done to our coastline plant seeds of awareness, concern and advocacy. Sometimes those seeds germinate.


Chair, Jamaica Environment Trust