Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Earth Today | Schools near three-million target in plastic recycling competition

Published:Thursday | November 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Students from St James High School, one of the WISYNCO Eco-Schools’ Recycling Competition participants, at their beach clean-up.
A student from Holy Childhood Prep School participates in a recent beach clean-up.
Spanish Town High Eco Club students and teachers.

JAMAICAN YOUTH are showing what is possible for environmental conservation, with support from corporate Jamaica and their school communities.

Just two months after the curtain went up on this year's Wisynco Eco Club Schools' Recycling Competition, students from 64 participating institutions have collected more than two million plastic bottles.

The figure puts them well on their way to the three-million target for the competition, with another two terms of school to go before the end of the competition in June next year.

Shelly-Ann Dunkley, environment communication officer with Wisynco Eco, is thrilled.

"To say I am surprised and excited would be an understatement. The students, teachers and persons involved have almost reached the goal and we have not completed the first term of the competition. This is a tremendous feat," she said.

"The drive and determination we have seen so far reinforces the phrase 'recycling plastic feels fantastic'. Most persons who I have spoken to do not know what the prizes are, but they are doing their part. They heard a call to bring in the bottles and they did," Dunkley added.

According to the communication officer, it has so far been a good learning experience for many people, young and old.

"We educated them about the different types of bottles that are being collected and persons were surprised to know that your detergent bottles, oil bottles, mouthwash and others can be collected as well," she said.

"Jamaicans should look for their codes and know the types of bottles Recycling Partners of Jamaica is collecting. I am very excited to see what the next two terms will bring," Dunkley added.

The annual competition has sought, over the last two years, to inspire a shift in the public perception of, and attitude towards, recycling through direct engagement with young people at their schools and in their homes.

Year one of the programme (2016-17) attracted the participation of 15 schools and yielded the collection of one million bottles. Year two (2017-18) saw the involvement of 33 schools, which collected 1.3 million bottles.


Corporate, community support invaluable to students' efforts


The Eco team remains confident that this year's three-million bottle goal can be met and surpassed with the continued support from private- and public-sector organisations, a number of whom have already thrown their support behind the competition.

They include I Love Mobay, the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, BREDS Treasure Beach Foundation, and One Love Jamaica Foundation. Personalities, including Yendi Phillipps and Kerry-Ann Clarke, according to Wisynco Eco, have also endorsed the effort via their social media platforms.

Plastic - including PET and styrofoam, together with microplastics such as those found in cosmetics - are a significant source of marine pollution.

They end up in the sea via land-based sources of pollution, such as "dumps/landfills, riverine transport, untreated sewage and storm water discharges, industrial and manufacturing facilities, tourism, and beachgoers".

This is according to information out of UN Environment Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP), which has noted the urgent need to address marine litter, with a 2007 review of literature from Latin America and the Wider Caribbean Region finding that between 1970 and 2007, plastics were the most common material reported.

"Marine litter is an environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problem affecting all regions around the world," notes the CEP website.

It adds, among other things, that the "entanglement and ingestion of marine litter is directly damaging wildlife and the environment in which they live. Marine litter can cause habitat destruction, including smothering of the seabed, entangled litter on coral reefs and deposition on seagrass beds."