Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Jamaica is swimming in garbage

Published:Monday | August 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Plastic containers, including this laundry basket, were among the many solid waste items contributing to pollution of the mangrove forest at Refuge Cay.
The pile-up of garbage at the Rae Town Fishing Village in downtown Kingston. Photo by Christopher Serju
The volume of garbage brought into the harbour via this gully now threatens to block the flow and could contribute to flooding. - Photos by Christopher Serju

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

Jamaica is swimming in garbage - literally! That message was brought home forcefully during last Thursday's media launch of International Coastal Clean-up Day 2014 and Clean Coasts Project by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which included a visit to the Port Royal lab and boat tour of a section of the Palisadoes Protected Area and Kingston Harbour.

Plastic drink bottles were evident soon after leaving port, but it was the heaps of garbage deposited along the shoreline such as the Rae Town Fishing Village which provided graphic reminders of the filth and debris feeding into the harbour, which is still a major source of income, relaxation and sport for many Jamaicans.

As the tour passed by the Bank of Jamaica, a happy group of young boys paused from swimming to wave at the vessel, and about 200 metres later, the breeze rose up, bring with it a stench that brought at least one member of the touring party to the brink of nausea.

Seconds later, as we gazed in wonderment at the hundreds of plastic bottles and debris swimming by, the captain broke the silence to explain that the assault on the nostrils was due in large measure to the effluent/sewage being channeled into the sea every day.

On the way, back we went by Refuge Cay and were greeted by more garbage, very solid waste, including a huge truck tyre, plastic buckets, a laundry basket, remains of a boat, styrofoam containers and bottles.

Nearby, a fisherman in a boat pulled in his net as another stood in the water, both seemingly oblivious, like the diver we had encountered earlier, to the garbage all around.

As Suzanne Stanley, programme director at JET, explained afterwards, among the activities that will precede and continue after International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday, September 20, will be getting Jamaicans to understand how the little things they do on land, can have such a big negative impact in places far removed and sometimes not so far.

However, it was Deleen Powell, public relations officer with the National Environment and Planning Agency, who really put into perspective the importance of public education about people's responsibility in regards to such a private matter as garbage disposal.

"Very often, when people throw things away out their car windows into the street, it's a matter of out of mind but 'away' is a place and so it ends up somewhere - usually in our gullies or the sea. So it's not enough to just throw things away, because 'away' is a place."