Tue | Feb 25, 2020

JET disappointed with deposit refund delay

Published:Saturday | January 25, 2020 | 12:06 AM

Minister Without Portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office Daryl Vaz, who has responsibility for the environment, has drawn the ire of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which has expressed disappointment over his announcement last week to delay the roll-out of the planned deposit refund scheme for plastic bottles until 2021.

Approximately 800 million plastic bottles are used in Jamaica each year and only about 20 per cent are reportedly being collected for recycling.

JET and other environmental interests in Jamaica have been advocating for a deposit refund scheme for plastic bottles since the mid-1990s.

“Every year the haul of plastic bottles on International Coastal Clean-up Day becomes larger and larger – this year volunteers collected over 261,000 plastic bottles from our coastline in one day,” JET CEO Suzanne Stanley said in a press release on Thursday. “We commend the Jamaican Government for its recent steps to curb plastic pollution by banning single-use plastic bags, straws and styrofoam; however, plastic bottles remain an enormous challenge to the island’s waste stream,” she added.

The promised deposit refund scheme for plastic bottles is critical to addressing Jamaica’s plastic pollution problem, according to JET, which is urging the Jamaican Government and private-sector interests tasked with leading the scheme to implement it as soon as possible. Under the proposed plastic bottle initiative, consumers are to receive a cash rebate for the return of plastic bottles to designated redemption centres across the island. These will then be processed for recycling, thereby removing them from the island’s waste stream.

Among the other top 10 items collected by volunteers on International Coastal Clean-up Day in 2019 were plastic bags and styrofoam. Single-use plastic shopping bags, measuring less than 24” x 24” and imported styrofoam food and beverage containers were banned in Jamaica in January 2019.

“Although we saw a decrease in the number of plastic grocery bags collected in 2019 when compared to 2018, the number of ‘other’ plastic bags that were collected increased, so overall the total number of plastic bags collected on ICC Day increased by 8.2 per cent,” said Ashley Codner, JET project coordinator. “We have noted a 33 per cent decrease in the number of plastic straws collected in 2019, however, so we hope that in coming years the ICC statistics for plastic bags and styrofoam will also reflect that kind of sharp decline.”