Jamaica Observer / The Government’s pledge to support the plastic bottle return system is commendable and, we hope, will be more than just an announcement. According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the system will see funding coming from the private sector for a ‘deposit and pay-out on return’ mechanism.

“The consensus on the part of the producers of plastic-bottled products is a major step in overcoming the improper disposal of plastic bottles. The Government will support the plastic bottle return system with the necessary regulatory and financial support where possible,” the prime minister said in his contribution to the 2018/2019 budget debate on Tuesday.

It is no secret that solid waste management is a major problem in this country. Each year after International Coastal Clean-up Day, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) highlights this problem in its report on the volume of waste, particularly plastics, that is collected from the island’s beaches.

Last year JET told us that its International Coastal Clean-up Day on September 16 resulted in a record 160,628 pounds of garbage collected from beaches and shorelines across the island, including nearly 300,000 plastic beverage bottles.

An accompanying report from the Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica Clean-up Network revealed that the efforts of its volunteers resulted in the collection of 5,431 pounds of garbage, including 15,517 plastic bottles.

“It came as no surprise that plastic bottles were the number one item collected during these clean-up efforts. This is a long-standing trend we have seen over the many years JET has coordinated clean-ups in Jamaica,” Ms Suzanne Stanley, CEO at JET, was reported as saying.

“Many Jamaicans believe carelessly discarding their one plastic bottle cannot be a problem. They do not appreciate that every single piece of garbage thrown carelessly in the street or a gully contributes to the ever-increasing scope and scale of Jamaica’s solid waste management issues,” Ms Stanley added.

She is, of course, correct and the problem, it appears, is growing worse each year, even as an increasing number of Jamaicans are volunteering annually to clean the island’s beaches and coastline.

We know that JET, primarily through its Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica Clean-up Network, and a number of other organisations, including NGOs, service clubs, and academic institutions have been engaged in educational programmes aimed at encouraging Jamaicans to desist from arbitrarily discarding waste, especially plastics.

That message, including urging the public to make use of recycling facilities, is worth repeating and repeating. Our hope is that this support from the State for the plastic bottle return system will contribute to a significant change in behaviour. Because, as the prime minister correctly pointed out on Tuesday, the improper disposal of waste is not just a nuisance, it is devaluing the cleanliness of our environs, and is a real threat to our ecosystems as well as the efficient working of civil infrastructure.

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