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Recycling is easier than we think


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Jamaica has much natural beauty, stunning views, amazing beaches and rainforests, plus rivers that can make one's heart stop with the breathtaking majesty. However, we have one massive blight marring this beauty — garbage.

Everywhere one looks there is the sight of garbage, be it the beach littered with plastic bottles, the river choked with plastic bags, or even the streets which have juice bags, boxes and bottles, even condom wrappers and used condoms. Jamaica has a serious garbage problem — or, more specifically, a recycling problem.

Many excuses are given for why the waste is both scattered about the place and left to pile up. A lack of skips, a lack of bins, a lack of dustmen, and poor education as it relates to personal waste management are all given as excuses for our garbage problem. They all are, in fact, valid statements; however, much more could be done as it relates to making the place less filthy.

One excuse we are always greeted with is that plastic, especially bottles and bags, is almost impossible to recycle here and that they just end up in landfills or the waterways, clogging things up. That is inexcusable and, quite frankly, a cop-out as so many things could be done to mitigate this situation. The plastic that we all ignore could be used for so many things and be used in ingenious ways that could also — wait for it — provide jobs in a niche market while also beautifying the nation. I am, of course, speaking of making art and furniture out of the disposed plastic.

We could begin by making benches and other seating. Imagine, for example, the bus stop — instead of having a run-down shed with a few seats the sight of which can make your skin crawl, it could be transformed into a new waiting area with the shed made of reused plastic and comfortable and plentiful seats so that one could wait for a bus in comfort. Imagine a park with children playing on a see-saw or a swing or even jungle gym all made out of the plastic items that would have become garbage clogging the drains.

If one looks at the types of art that can be or is already being made with this type of waste material, the stunning quality and beauty, the decorative and functional outputs that can be achieved from this garbage, then right there one would see a grand opportunity for our Jamaican artists to actually get their teeth further into a modern medium, and at the same time assisting in beautifying the nation.

We could even go further and imagine shoes, slippers, rain slicks, and even bags, all made in Jamaica and all coming from the items that we speak of now as causing so much havoc on the nation. A niche market could be created and grown, producing jobs to this nation, and it could come from the garbage.

With garbage, and plastic in particular, choking the nation something needs to be done. Education, yes, but people will only learn the right things if taught . Putting in skips and bins is a must, people can't dispose of waste properly if there are no receptacles. However, that will not address the issue of the plastic we currently have and the plastic that we will have in the future that we all agree cannot now be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

We are choking on garbage as we speak. Even if we manage to scrape up all the plastic in the island more will always wash ashore from the floating garbage piles that occupy the oceans. Instead of whining, instead of doing half-measures, and instead of ignoring the problem — things we are excellent at — let us address it head-on. This is an easy, cost-effective and, quite frankly, fun way to reduce the garbage in the nation and is one that ties in well with the proposals that have been spoken about by the 'talking heads'.

Let us see now if anything changes.


Alexander Scott is a political and social commentator, legal clerk, sports enthusiast, and proud graduate of St George's College. Send comments to the Observer or