Sun | Sep 19, 2021

Beach-lover celebrates birthday with clean-up

Published:Saturday | March 14, 2020 | 12:00 AMJamila Litchmore/Special Projects and Engagement Editor
Ayanna Dixon (left), and friend Morgan McFarlane do some heavy lifting.
Gabrielle Sang and her son, Jude, were eager to play their part.
Ayanna Dixon (right), and Shelly-Ann Dunkley, environment communication officer at Wisynco Group Limited, long-time partners of Dixon's birthday beach clean-up.
Sort the waste is key for any clean-up. Ayanna Dixon (left), and Morgan McFarlane are focused as they sort.
Evelyn Abreu pulls her second bag of trash to the collection area.
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TODAY IS Ayanna Dixon’s birthday, and as she has done for the past three years, the milestone was marked with a mindful celebration — a beach clean-up with friends, volunteers, partners and some people, who up until the day, she had never met.

The team gathered on the Palisadoes strip, ahead of the 7:00 a.m. start on Saturday, March 7, united by their shared purpose and ready to sort, collect and recycle.

The Palisadoes is a pollution hotspot. A lot of garbage carelessly discarded along the streets of Kingston lands in gullies and floats along the harbour to the shores of this strip of land, notes Suzanne Stanley, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). Just last year, more than 21,000 pounds of waste was collected within the area for International Coastal Clean-up Day Jamaica, of which JET are national coordinators.

“You find a wide range of things. I mean, straws, bottles, we found a toilet, part of a refrigerator, toys, slippers, you name it, sneakers, we found it. It’s actually very, very horrible. And I mean this is just Palisadoes so you can imagine all the other places, for example, when you go to Morant Point, out by the lighthouse, you actually get garbage from Haiti, you get garbage from the Dominican Republic out there,” said Dixon.

Despite years cleaning up beaches, sometimes on her own and now through the annual beach clean-up, the fashion designer and illustrator is still surprised by the pace of local and global waste.

“By tomorrow, you’ll probably see a lot more garbage out here like we didn’t do anything. So it’s just important to have activities like this and to do the best we can in recycling and just reducing our plastic usage,” she said.

SIMPLE START

The idea for a birthday beach clean-up was born in 2018, at the height of discussions around a ban on single-use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene. Dixon, at the time, wanted to raise awareness among her friends. It didn’t hurt that it was her birthday, and her friends would have some obligation to do exactly what she wanted.

“I love the beach. I wanted to take care of it, so my friends come out because of that. And also I nag them,” she said, with a chuckle.

Close friend Morgan McFarlane concurs. “I come out when she tells me to come out,” said McFarlane.

PUBLIC SUPPORT

The public has also been receptive. “People have been so nice, even if they are not able to show up, they actually retweet, post, share and tell friends,” shared Dixon.

Evelyn Abreu, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, heard about the clean-up through an Instagram post. Her motivation, like other participants, was clear: this is our beach, our planet and our responsibility.

“I [already collected] two bags today, one of them was [filled with] plastic and the other garbage and I want to collect another because there is just so much plastic,” shared Abreu.

Likewise, Gabrielle Sang learnt about the initiative on social media and brought her son, Jude. That the 12-year-old gets community service hours towards his graduation at the Wolmer’s High School for Boys, where he is in Grade 7 is just a bonus. She admits she is worried about the world Jude will inherit.

“I think more education needs to be done, especially when you look at the gullies,” said Sang.

IMPROVED TALLY

This year, the team collected a total of 82 bags from the beach at the Palisadoes, 42 bags of recyclable waste and 40 bags of garbage. All of which were properly sorted and recycled or disposed of with the help of their partners, Wisynco, who has been on board with the initiative from the beginning; Recycling Partners of Jamaica and the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

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