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EDITORIAL - Sort the trash for a greener Jamaica

Published:Thursday | January 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The official launch of a plastic-bottle recycling plant in the Riverton Meadows area of Kingston this week holds out immense prospects for employment of low-skilled labourers. So far, it employs 12 workers permanently and there are about 50 others who work as collectors.

There is an economic side to garbage collection and waste-recovery strategies, and allowing inner-city communities to make money from waste is to be applauded. But beyond that, we hope projects like this will inspire Jamaicans to place greater emphasis on the environment in 2015.

Under the programme spearheaded by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation and the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, in collaboration with various key partners, the activities include collecting plastic bottles, which are then compacted and prepared for export.

Like us, Local Government Minister Noel Arscott hopes the project will help increase awareness about the importance of recycling and protecting the natural environment.

Choking on pollution

While the heart of our country beats with wonderful natural landscape, our landfills are choking with plastic and other debris which contribute to the increase of carbon emissions and can have other harmful effects on our environment and marine life.

Jamaicans are estimated to throw away one million plastic bottles each month. Often, they are discarded anyhow, and plastic takes an average 450 years to begin to break down. This is an alarming situation which should send those in charge of solid waste management in search of urgent solutions. Speeding up recycling and slowing down emissions are two of the immediate solutions that Jamaica should employ in the spirit of concentrating on what we can do easily.

It was in 2012 that three Corporate Area communities, namely, Karachi, Havendale and Whitfield Town, were selected by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to participate in a six-month pilot plastic-separation project. This was hailed then as the forerunner to a national plastic-separation project. Plastic separation was also tried in several government ministries.

Future development

Earlier this year, NSWMA Executive Director Jennifer Edwards reported that 6,000 pounds of waste plastic were collected after a successful pilot project. Considering that each Jamaican is estimated to generate more than two pounds of waste daily, that seems like a drop in the bucket. If the objectives of that NSWMA project were achieved, then the country should be moving further along the path to developing a comprehensive recycling programme.

The NSWMA should be able to say what percentage of the island's total waste is being recycled at the moment and what are its ultimate goals for recycling.

Living greener and healthier should be the goal of all Jamaicans. We submit that this requires awareness via a massive campaign using traditional media, billboards and social media, in order to help change public attitude towards waste disposal. By boosting environmental responsi-bility within the home and at work, we are, in fact, averting environmental disaster later on.

Mr Arscott suggested that more stringent fines could be introduced to punish litterbugs, but, as we are well aware, laws must be enforced for them to be effective, and enforcement has been one of the country's weakest points. We already have litter laws, but they are not being effectively applied.

Let each of us ask this question on this, the first day of 2015: What will I do for my environment today?

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.