PLAS­TIC POL­LU­TION The mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar prob­lem


Fig­ure 1: Im­ports of Plas­tic for Pack­ag­ing or Con­veyance: 2011–2015, kg

THE MARCH 2015 fire at the River­ton City dump af­fected 808,553 per­sons liv­ing in Kingston, St An­drew and St Cather­ine, while the flood­ing of Mar­cus Gar­vey Drive in Kingston in Septem­ber 2016 had dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts on busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als work­ing and liv­ing along that cor­ri­dor. Two gov­ern­ment agen­cies that ex­pe­ri­enced losses were the Fish­eries Di­vi­sion and the Sugar Com­pany of Ja­maica. Es­ti­mated losses for the Sugar Com­pany was be­tween $200 and $300 mil­lion.

Plas­tics are the se­cond most col­lected item at the River­ton dump, while the flood­ing was at­trib­uted to garbage, made up of plas­tic bot­tles, bags and sty­ro­foam, among oth­ers, block­ing drains along the Shoe­maker Gully. These en­vi­ron­men­tal events have made Jamaicans more aware of how hu­man ac­tions can have an ad­verse im­pact on eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, health and the over­all qual­ity of life.

Moderni­sa­tion and growth of the Caribbean so­ci­ety, cou­pled with poor or in­ad­e­quate solid waste man­age­ment, has re­sulted in the im­proper dis­posal of waste. Most Cen­tral Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries dis­pose of their wastes into open-air dumps be­cause of a lack of ad­e­quate land­fills, as stated by the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme (UNEP).

In 2001, Ja­maica de­vel­oped a pol­icy frame­work en­ti­tled ‘A Short-term Strat­egy for the Man­age­ment of Plas­tic Pack­ag­ing Ma­te­ri­als in Ja­maica’. The doc­u­ment recog­nised that plas­tic pack­ag­ing ma­te­ri­als, par­tic­u­larly poly­eth­yl­ene tereph­tha­late (PET), which is mainly used to pro­duce bot­tles, poses an im­me­di­ate threat to pub­lic health and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment be­cause of in­dis­crim­i­nate dump­ing.

Ja­maica im­ports more than 40 items of plas­tics for the use of pack­ing and con­veyance. Fig­ure 1 rep­re­sents the top 10 plas­tic items im­ported into Ja­maica be­tween 2011 and 2015.

Ja­maica im­ported a grand to­tal of 307.4 mil­lion kilo­grams of plas­tic be­tween the pe­riod 2004 and 2015, av­er­ag­ing ap­prox­i­mately 25.6 mil­lion Fig­ure 2: To­tal Im­ports of Plas­tic for Pack­ag­ing or Con­veyance: 2004-2015, kg kilo­grams per an­num. The great­est vol­ume of plas­tic im­ports, 30.7 mil­lion kilo­grams, was recorded in 2015 (see Fig­ure 2). Im­ports in­creased by 27.3 per cent be­tween 2004 (20.0 mil­lion kg) and 2007 (27.5 mil­lion kg), with a de­crease of 11.6 per cent in 2008 over the pre­vi­ous year. The vol­ume of plas­tics im­ported be­tween 2009 and 2015 has fluc­tu­ated, av­er­ag­ing 27 mil­lion kilo­grams an­nu­ally.


In Fig­ure 3, which shows waste com­po­si­tion for the years 2013 and 2014, waste made up of com­postable or or­ganic ma­te­rial av­er­aged 58.5 per cent of to­tal waste col­lected, fol­lowed by plas­tics at 15 per cent.

Ini­tia­tives un­der­taken to min­imise plas­tic pol­lu­tion A Plas­tic Sep­a­ra­tion Ini­tia­tive in Gov­ern­ment En­ti­ties pro­gramme was in­tro­duced to gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties in April 2014 with the ob­jec­tive of en­cour­ag­ing em­ploy­ees and visi­tors to sep­a­rate plas­tic con­tain­ers from reg­u­lar waste. Ja­maica En­vi­ron­ment Trust (JET) In­ter­na­tional Coastal Cleanup Day is an event spear­headed by the Ocean Con­ser­vancy, an in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal agency aimed at pro­tect­ing the world’s ocean and their nat­u­ral re­sources. Ta­ble 2 shows that

IIJa­maica recorded a large quan­tity of plas­tic items plas­tics at the 2015 In­ter­na­tional Coastal Cleanup Day.

Re­cy­cle Now Ja­maica is an ini­tia­tive launched in 2014 be­tween the Gov­ern­ment of Ja­maica and the pri­vate sec­tor, whereby an or­gan­i­sa­tion is to be es­tab­lished, with the main ob­jec­tive of an is­land­wide col­lec­tion and re­cy­cling of PET bot­tles.

The bot­tles were to be col­lected and placed at four de­pos­i­to­ries across the is­land and per­sons would be paid based on the weight of the bot­tles dis­trib­uted for re­cy­cling. The Nuh Dutty Up Ja­maica cam­paign was in­tro­duced by JET, which re­ceived fund­ing from the Tourism En­hance­ment Fund. This cam­paign is aimed at sen­si­tis­ing Jamaicans to proper waste-man­age­ment and san­i­ta­tion prac­tices. Ja­maica has be­gun to show signs of curb­ing the dele­te­ri­ous im­pact of sty­ro­foam with the Se­nate re­cently ap­prov­ing a ban on sty­ro­foam. This, cou­pled with greater pub­lic aware­ness of the im­pact of plas­tics on the en­vi­ron­ment, is hoped to lessen this very se­ri­ous prob­lem. SCHMOI MCLEAN Statis­ti­cian Sta­tis­ti­cal In­sti­tute of Ja­maica



Fig­ure 3: Waste Com­po­si­tion: 2013-2014

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