Editorial

Reject single-use plastics now!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

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Anyone who read the United Nations (UN) report released yesterday in observance of World Environment Day and was not stunned by the data must either be extremely callous or not human at all.

The report provides bald facts about how human beings are, as the UN so succinctly put it, choking the world on trash.

The UN tells us that up to five trillion grocery bags are used each year and, at current levels, the Earth could be awash with 12 billion tonnes of plastic trash by the middle of the century.

Mr Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, is reported as saying that the world's oceans “have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and transforming some marine areas into a plastic soup”.

Mr Solheim pointed out that in cities around the world “plastic waste clogs drains, causing floods and breeding disease”. He also told us that plastic waste is finding its way into the foods we eat because the waste is being consumed by livestock.

The UN report also informed us that the five trillion plastic bags consumed each year equalled nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute, and, “if tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour”.

That, we believe, gives a graphic scale of the problem which was also highlighted by UN Secretary General António Guterres who, in his message to mark the day, stated that if the “present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish”, because every year more than eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the oceans.

To further emphasise his point, Mr Guterres pointed out that microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy.

We note that several countries in the Caribbean and Latin America are using taxes, bans and technological innovation to restrict the production and consumption of plastic bags.

That, we believe, is a necessary move, given the heavy use of plastics in this region. However, it should not have had to come to this, as every resident of every country should consider it his/her duty to heed the UN's appeal to “reject single-use plastics” and “refuse what you can't re-use”.

Here, in Jamaica, we are encouraged by the Government's decision to ban of the use of single-use plastic bags in the retail trade. That, we hold, will complement the financial support that the State gives to Recycling Partners of Jamaica Limited (RPJL), a private sector-led initiative that sees to the collection and export of PET bottles.

Recently, in his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament, Mr Daryl Vaz, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, reported that since November 2016 RPJL has collected over 1.3 million pounds of plastic waste for export and has instituted PET bottle collection programmes in 52 schools across the island.

But, as Mr Vaz pointed out, the country needs an integrated approach to waste management and, more specifically, plastic waste. With that in mind, we welcome the Government's Plastics Minimisation Project which, Mr Vaz explained, is aimed at enhancing the country's capacity to implement integrated waste management activities that strengthen the policy and legislative framework to reduce and manage plastic marine litter from land-based activities in an environmentally sound manner.

It is a project that everyone needs to support.

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