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Cleaner streets ahead

Sandals Foundation launches Solid Waste Reduction Project on South Coast

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The south coast communities of Whitehouse and Bluefields, known as much for their azure bathing beaches and populous fishing villages as their struggle with solid waste management, are in for a clean-up and education programme over the next year.

This, as Sandals Foundation, through a US$25,000 UN Environment grant, will implement its Solid Waste Reduction Project.

Putting the scope of the problem into context, the foundation's environmental officer, Jonathan Hernould, told the Jamaica Observer that large amounts of garbage generated by the two communities end up either on the coast or in the sea, threatening both the tourism product and the livelihood of fishermen.

“[For example], on September 17, 2016, we collected 2,620 lbs of garbage on one 200-m stretch of beach in the town of Whitehouse,” Hernould said.

“Pollution in the area has significantly affected the Whitehouse and Bluefields Bay Special Fishery Conservation Areas (SFCA), which not only affects marine life, but the livelihoods of local fishermen who depend on the SFCAs to provide more and larger fish in the surrounding areas,” he continued.

While the project, launched on World Oceans Day, last Friday, June 8 at Sandals South Coast, is expected to run for one year, it is designed to be self-sustainable so that when the project teams are no longer on the ground, community groups will carry the goals forward. It consists of three components: public awareness, waste separation and management, and monitoring. It will see to, among other things, the installation across the communities and in schools of 200 waste bins placed in groups of three and labelled to allow for the separation of waste into plastics for recycling, compostable material, and garbage.

“Through our public awareness, education and the provision of waste separation bins, the communities will have the tools to properly separate and dispose of their garbage. There is also the possibility of income generation opportunities through composting, less mosquito-borne diseases, better managed protected areas and an overall social change that will see residents playing a more active role in the protection of their environment,” said Hernould.

He explained that each category of waste will be collected by a different partner entity once per week in order to reduce the amount discarded in gullies or by the side of the road and eventually reach the sea.

Project partners include the Recycling Partners of Jamaica, National Environment & Planning Agency, and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

Speaking to the public education component of the project, Hernould said that is where the long-term sustainability of the project is hinged.

“The communities must first be made aware and educated on proper waste management practices through the correct separation and disposal of their waste if we are to sustain this initiative. At least one activity will be carried out per week in each community by the Sandals Foundation and the Peace Corps; (activities such as) engaging residents at Community Development Committee meetings, town walks, school activities, church services and other stakeholder meetings to ensure that we connect with the residents,” he said.

The roll-out of that component started with a presentation at the Bluefields health centre on Monday, the foundation reported.

Hernould added that regular monitoring to gauge the public's knowledge and measure the project's progress will be done through a number of social surveys and land and underwater clean-ups.

The hope is that the experience with Whitehouse and Bluefields will create a framework to strengthen solid waste management in the wider community.

Sandals Foundation is the non-profit arm of Sandals Resorts International, which includes the Sandals, Beaches, Grand Pineapple and Fowl Cay resort brands.