The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is expressing disappointment over last week’s announcement by Minister Daryl Vaz that the roll out of the planned deposit refund scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles is being delayed until 2021. Minister Vaz’s announcement came ahead of JET’s release of the results of last year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day Jamaica activities, which identify plastic beverage bottles as the number one item collected by ICC volunteers for the twelfth consecutive year.
“We commend the Jamaican Government for its recent steps to curb plastic pollution by banning single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam; however plastic bottles remain an enormous challenge to the island’s waste stream,” said Suzanne Stanley, CEO of JET. “Every year the haul of plastic bottles on ICC Day becomes larger and larger – this year volunteers collected over 261,000 plastic bottles from our coastline in one day!” Approximately 800 million plastic bottles are used in Jamaica each year and only about 20% are reportedly being collected for recycling. JET and other environmental interests in Jamaica have been advocating for a DRS for plastic bottles since the mid-1990s.
JET describes the promised DRS for plastic bottles as critical to addressing Jamaica’s plastic pollution problem and is urging the Jamaican Government and private sector interests tasked with leading the scheme to implement it as soon as possible. Under the proposed plastic bottle DRS, consumers are to receive a cash rebate for the return of plastic bottles to designated redemption centres across the island. Plastic bottles will then be processed for recycling, thereby removing them from the island’s waste stream.
Among the other top ten items collected by volunteers on ICC Day in 2019 were plastic bags and Styrofoam. Single-use plastic shopping bags measuring less than 24” x 24” and imported Styrofoam food and beverage containers were banned in Jamaica in January 2019.
“Although we saw a decrease in the number of plastic grocery bags collected in 2019 when compared to 2018, the number of ‘other’ plastic bags that were collected increased, so overall the total number of plastic bags collected on ICC Day increased by 8.2%,” said Ashley Codner, JET Project Coordinator. “We have noted a 33% decrease in the number of plastic straws collected in 2019 however, so we hope that in coming years the ICC statistics for plastic bags and Styrofoam will also reflect that kind of sharp decline.”
The 2019 International Coastal Cleanup Day Jamaica National Summary Report was released by JET online and as an insert in the Sunday Gleaner on January 26, 2020. In 2019 JET achieved its longstanding target of attracting over 10,000 volunteers to the event which took place on Saturday, September 21 at 182 sites across the island. Over 12,400 Jamaicans turned out to ICC in 2019 to clean up 125 miles of coastline, collecting 9,225 bags of garbage weighing an estimated 146,000 pounds.
International Coastal Cleanup Day has been coordinated in Jamaica by JET with funding from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) since 2008. In 2019, TEF were joined by Recycling Partners of Jamaica, Protex and the JPS Foundation as corporate sponsors of the event.