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Earth Today | Breaking up with plastics

Published:Thursday | August 8, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Plastics and micro plastics are a significant source of pollution for the Caribbean.

LIKENING THE public obsession with single-use plastics to a woman in a years-long toxic relationship, the Global Environment Facility-funded ‘Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island States’ (GEF IWECO) project is lobbying for a ‘break-up’.

It is doing so via a recently released video, titled ‘Caribbean Breaking up with Plastics’, that outlines for viewers the perils of plastics while insisting the break-up is ‘long time overdue’ and providing visual cues on alternatives, including reusable bags and water bottles.

The video was released on July 31, in support of United Nations (UN) Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, launched in 2017 with the tagline ‘turn the tide on plastic’ and with the aim of “engaging governments, the general public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution”.

“By connecting individuals, civil society groups, industry and governments, UN Environment is a catalyst for change, transforming habits, practices, standards and policies around the globe to dramatically reduce marine litter and the harm it causes. The campaign contributes to the goals of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, a voluntary open-ended partnership for international agencies, governments, businesses, academia, local authorities and non-governmental organisations hosted by UN Environment,” notes the campaign website.

Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Colombia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago are the countries that have so far signed on to the campaign.

Jamaica, for its part, effected a ban on plastics, effective January 1 this year. The ban made it illegal for any person “to manufacture or use any single-use plastic in commercial quantities”, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (Plastic Packaging Materials Prohibition) Order 2018. Also as at January 1, “no person shall import or distribute any single-use plastic in commercial quantities”, stipulates the Trade (Plastic Packaging Materials Prohibition) Order 2018.


To disobey either order is to risk conviction and a fine not exceeding $50,000 or imprisonment of up to two years in the case of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Order, and a fine of up to 2 million or up to two years behind base in the case of the other.

The islands’ efforts come at a time when a reported 2.5 billion metric tons of solid waste are produced globally, 275 million metric tons of that plastics.

What is more, as has been revealed by Professor Mona Webber of The University of the West Indies Centre for Marine Sciences, “two billion people within 30 miles of the coast create 100 million metric tons of plastic waste every year; eight million tons of plastic goes into the ocean and by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish”.

Donna Sue Spencer, communications specialist with GEF IWECO, said the release of the video is timely, given the scale of the plastics challenge and the progress of response actions, including not only the Clean Seas initiative to which 51 governments – in addition to the nine from the Wider Caribbean – have signed up.

“Basically, we could have done this not only because the project concentrates on solid waste or litter as an issue and because we do focus on land degradation and water quality, but also as part of our contribution to the Clean Seas campaign, which is supporting the drive towards acceleration of more and more countries in the Caribbean taking up the Clean Seas pledge and actually adopting bans on single-use plastics and styrofoam,” she told The Gleaner.

So far, she said the video has been making the rounds on social media and with some ‘good reviews’. In the last week, the YouTube link has attracted 1,362 views and 46 ‘likes’. The next step, Spencer said, will be to try to have it aired via television across the Caribbean.