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JET wants you to know 'weh garbage a go'

Published:Sunday | March 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Garbage dumped in front of this 'No Dumping' sign in Linstead, St Catherine.

Evidence that Jamaica’s dirty problem is growing is everywhere. Garbage strewn all over the streets, in gullies, open lots, thrown from private and public vehicles, dumped indiscriminately by citizens. Jamaica’s failure to effectively address solid waste disposal is obvious, assailing as it does every day, the naked eye, nostrils and stomach.

It is for this reason that the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET) is shifting gears in its Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica campaign to get the public more aware, concerned and pro-active in the way they carry our garbage disposal.

“It is important that we are able to share practical information on what individuals can do to better manage their waste," Suzanne Stanley, deputy chief executive officer of JET, shared at the launch of its ‘Weh Garbage a Go’ phase of its ongoing national drive to clean up Jamaica.

Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica is a public education campaign that aims to improve people’s knowledge about the impact of poorly handled waste on public health and the environment, while encouraging personal responsibility for the generation and disposal of waste. Launched in February 2015, it is one component of the Clean Coasts Project led by JET with the support of the Tourism Enhancement Fund.

The job of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), the agency with the mandate to collect and dispose of garbage across the island, is made much harder by the unwillingness of people to properly package and dispose of their garbage, even when facilities are provided. Too many persons simply just throw garbage all over the place.

“For the garbage to be properly transported, it must be placed in the skip provided but people bring the garbage and throw it on the ground and when the men come from Solid Waste they refuse to collect the garbage in this way. At points in time, we have to actually pay additional money to put the garbage back into the skip,” one NSWMA staffer told The Gleaner.

The impact of how garbage ends up in different places, polluting the environment in various ways, and encouraging Jamaicans to incorporate better waste management in their every day activities is the overriding theme of the video series depicting key garbage management themes. These include re-using, reducing, recycling, composting and bagging and binning waste. A number of very popular social media personalities – Bella Blair, Dutty Berry, Ellie the Viner and Prince Pine - star in a number of videos which will be aired via social media channels, in which they ask and answer the question: ‘Weh Garbage a Go?'

The fact of the matter is that even when garbage does make its way to the poorly managed dumps, a lot of it making its way to the coastline and eventually into the sea.

It is estimate that some 38 per cent of Jamaicans burn their garbage because they have no alternatives, others because they are lazy and some out of ignorance about the negative impact this practice has on their health and the health of others, as well as the environment. While open burning is illegal, there is no enforcement of the relevant laws and so people continue to do so without sanctions.

JET is hopeful that this new campaign will help to significantly reduce the 300,000 tonnes of waste dumped illegally in Jamaica each year – ending up in drains, gullies and rivers, where it causes public health issues and flooding. JET wants Jamaicans to understand that every piece of plastic used in their lifetime still exists somewhere on earth. This even includes plastic that had been burnt, which transforms into toxic gases and float around in the air being breathed and settle in water bodies and the ocean.

Additionally, when plastic breaks up into small pieces and are ingested by animals, they contaminate the food chain. Pollution from plastics is presented in the bloodstream and tissues of most human beings, including new born babies.

So, if you are not concerned about, ‘Weh Garbage a Go?' You should be!