We need to recycle

August 05, 2016
File People continue to dump garbage into gullies that end up on shoreline like this one on the Rae Town fishing beach in Kingston.

Like many other things in Jamaica, waste management in Jamaica is a joke.

We produce tons of garbage each year in Jamaica, and I swear, most of it ends up in our gullies that are eventually washed out to sea. This in large part explains the island of garbage that floats just off the island's south coast.

It seems as if we just dispose of stuff every and anywhere we can. People throw stuff out their car windows like it's the in-thing. It actually is. I feel strange sometimes when I have bags of garbage in my car for days because I find it impossible to discard stuff via my car window like it's a portal to Riverton City.

This is why I was pleased, but at the same time a little disappointed, at the news that the Jamaican government is to collaborate with the Japanese government on a recycling project that will help manage 1.2 million tons of waste, including an estimated four million plastic bottles.

I am pleased because finally it seems we have begun to understand the significant impact solid waste can have on our environment. Many Jamaicans I find are ignorant of too many things. We only see material benefit and that can never be a good thing because those benefits sometimes come at significant cost.

If we destroy our environment there will be nothing left of it for our kids to enjoy. That island of garbage I mentioned earlier will eventually begin having a deleterious effect on the people living on this rock of ours. Some of that plastic will eventually be consumed by fish which we eat invariably causing cancers among the population.

So, from that standpoint, getting those bottles recycled can only help us keep them from polluting the environment. And as I mention that, there is an idea that we can adopt that will not only keep the plastic bottles from polluting the environment, it will be beneficial to us as well. We have a housing problem in Jamaica and there are so many derelict building in many of our inner-city communities. Those bottles, filled with sand, can be used to make houses that are sturdy, cool, and last for hundreds of years. And did I mention cheap?

This recycling project should also create employment opportunities for Jamaicans. It is actually disturbing that we have never seriously considered how many jobs could be created by developing a sustainable recycling industry.

People are going to be needed to collect the bottles, recycle the bottles and so on. Those are jobs right there. If they take on building homes from the discarded bottles, additional construction jobs are created, and I am sure there are other opportunities for employment that I have not mentioned.

What is disappointing is that we don't seem capable of acting on these ideas with any amount of urgency. It took years of our gullies filling up with plastic bottles and other refuse and hundreds of condoms blocking drains for us to realise that something needed to be done. It's either that we just don't care or just don't know about the dangers we flirt with when we allow our environment to become as polluted as it has been.

It's almost as if we are incapable of doing anything on our own unless we have foreign intervention.

That doesn't say much about us.

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