'Scandal bags' to sleeping mats

Environmental project aims to alleviate discomfort for the homeless

Observer staff reporter

Monday, December 31, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Come tomorrow, January 1, the ban on some “single-use” plastic products and Styrofoam is set to be implemented.

The call for the legislation stemmed from disquiet about how long the items take to break down and the ripple effect for the environment and the population.

The lead-up to the ban fuelled many discussions centred on alternatives to the products to be phased out of the market and ways to efficiently recycle and reuse everyday items.

Inevitably, one of the teething pains of the changes will be to continue to promote the proper disposal of plastic products such as 'scandal bags', while the proposed alternatives — paper and cloth bags — become the accepted standard of transporting groceries, its primary use at present.

With those and other environmental concerns in mind, current Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Festival Queen for Manchester, Crystal Scale, has found an innovative way to reuse scandal bags as she embarks on her project for the year, “4Ts – Transforming Trash To Treasures.”

At the official launch at the Manchester High School this month (December 20), she talked about her mission to turn scandal bags into sleeping mats for the homeless and displayed a prototype, to give a clearer idea of her plans.

“I may not be able to give the homeless a home, I might not be solving all their problems, but I know that wherever they may wander and find a place to rest for the night at least I can give them a little comfort. It is a little way to remind them that they are not alone (and) that we are thinking about them,” she said.

Scale said the prototype is made from close to four hundred scandal bags and took her three weeks with assistance from her mother. However, she said, that she has worked out a way to reduce the time and also the number of bags to be used in production.

The scandal bags to sleeping mats project is the first of her two-part environmental project for the year.

She told the Jamaica Observer Central that the second part, which is being refined at present, is to make furniture from tyres. She hopes that through the formation of partnerships with environmental and other stakeholders she will be able to sustain the impetus of “transforming trash to treasure” beyond the end of her reign in mid-2019, and do more towards environmental conservation.

National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) environmental specialist and guest speaker at the launch, Jervian Johnson, said that research shows that on average an individual uses about three hundred scandal or plastic bags per year and as such the project is in line with one of the objectives of her organisation to lessen the waste in the environment.

The majority of solid waste, she said, is generated from domestic use.

“Plastic is really a problem, not just in Jamaica but internationally. It makes up a great amount of the solid waste. A lot of it gets washed into the sea and affects marine life in addition to the damages on land,” said Johnson.

She said that even though plastic takes a long time to break down, it actually breaks down overtime and results in micro plastics that can get in the food chain through fish that is eaten or through the soil. Improper disposal of waste also creates a challenge in dealing with diseases such as dengue and issues associated with inhaling the fumes when burning is used as a means of discarding it, she said.

Johnson reinforces that mind-sets will have to change to successfully deal with pollution.

She argued that the plastic and Styrofoam ban is a complex issue and more public education will have to be done as the implementation of the ban takes place, partly because cultural habits are key factors in some of the recurring challenges.

Johnson clarified at the function that there are some items that will be exempted from the ban – garbage bags among them.

She said too that the ban on Styrofoam products will take place in stages, first the importation, then manufacturing.

Manchester Cultural Development Committee representative, Karlene Kelly-Reid, commended Scale for her initiative.

“We expect that this project will also go far and wide on how it impacts on the community,” she said.

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