Environment

'Jamaica uses 1 million plastic bottles per week'

Our Habitat

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 09, 2011    

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JAMAICANS use one million plastic bottles per week, less than five per cent of which are collected for recycling, experts from the University of the West Indies (UWI) say.

However, efforts to change this statistic have received a boost as 13 more schools have signed on to a project to collect their bottles for recycling, bringing to 27 the number of institutions in the project started on the UWI Mona campus in 2008.

Under the Plastic Bottle Recycling Project, the schools receive special bins for plastic bottles only and have been trained in the collection and monitoring of the bottles. The bottles are to collected by a company called One Jamaica Recycling, which takes them to be shredded for making new products.

"The best countries in the world are recycling only 25 to 30 per cent of their plastics. In Jamaica, we are way down at under five per cent. But we are about to chance that, and you are a part of that change ," Prof Dale Webber, chairman of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at a function at UWI where the bins were handed over to the representatives of the 13 new schools.

This phase the project is funded with $7.1 million from the EFJ over two years.

EFJ acting chief executive officer Karen McDonald-Gayle said the foundation had given out more than $1.8 billion in grants to non-governmental organisations for more than 1,800 environmental management and child development projects since its inception in 1992.

She said recycling should be something all Jamaicans do "without someone telling you, without a prize, without anything, just because it is the right thing to do".

Project director Professor Elizabeth Thomas-Hope said Jamaicans used an estimated one million plastic bottles per week, most of which end up in landfills, where they take at least 450 million years to disintegrate. Plastic bottles are made from petroleum, which therefore contributes to increased carbon emissions and global warming.

She challenged the audience of mostly schoolchildren to lead the change in the society's attitudes toward recycling.

Dean of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences Professor Ishenkumba Kahwa noted that studies indicate that plastic bottles are very popular with consumers.

"We can expect to see more and more of them because people like them ," he noted.

Kahwa added that recycling is being done successfully in many countries and expressed the hope that the practice will catch on locally.

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