Jamaica’s Plastic Ban: Concerns Amidst This Great Move

Jamaica’s ban on single use plastic took effect January 1, 2019. New Year, new approach to taking environmental action. The ban comes right on schedule.

It was announced in September 2018 that it was coming. Business and the citizenry had time to prepare. We cannot deny that we have a serious problem with cleanliness and the environmental degradation. Our gullies, drains, street sides, inside JUTC buses are all glaring examples of this problem. There are serious health risks that are associated with this kind of violence on our environment.

At my book launch in March, 2018, I avoided plastic and Styrofoam at the event. I used mason jars for people to have their cold beverage (it was their keepsake) and paper straws, plates and cups (for hot beverage).

Mason jars & paper straws

I welcome the ban. I believe that both the general citizenry & businesses now have an opportunity to innovate & there are opportunities for new business ventures. Use Youtube. Learn to sew & market your totes. The possibilities are endless. We cannot miss the opportunities that change present. Maybe some of those businesses who have been asking for exemptions and extensions should also invest in some change management workshops to help themselves better adapt to the change. I shamelessly offer my services in this regard.

(Example of Tote that can be designed and made).

The orange economy (creative sectors) can flourish as a result of this ban: designers, tailors and seamstresses, marketers should be make this ban part of their 2019 visioning. Exploit the ban. Use your skills to help you benefit. I cannot help but see opportunities all around.

Despite the plethora of opportunities that exist, I have some concerns in the implementation of the ban. I want us to consider the larger issue here. The real issue is waste management – reducing waste; properly disposing waste and having proper waste removal to proper sites (preferably land fill rather than dump). For three years, I worked in communities around a urban disaster risk reduction (DRR) project. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) awareness was huge component of that project. Formerly, those informal communities had challenges with waste management. I engaged in WASH training, using a participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation (PHAST) methodology. Results: reduction in parachuting (flying toilets); proper management of waste at the household level and disposal in communal receptacles built; reduction in & greater recycling waste/grey water. Those communities, which were once seen as unhealthy, unsanitary could no longer been seen as such. I credit the success to the methodology and the partnership with the Municipal Corporation and the NSWMA. Members of the communities (WASH Ambassadors) had a directory for the NSWMA and had direct contact to the manager to make complaints if their garbage was not being collected. There were songs developed by those WASH ambassadors about how to properly prepare garbage for disposal and removal from communal receptacles. “Tie it in a scandal bag and drop it in the receptacle” was how they were advised and it formed part of the lyrics of the song.

1. Buying garbage bags is a luxury for so many in some communities. I worry about where they will find bags to dispose of their garbage so that it does not present an unsightly challenge. They had been warned not to just dump their garbage in the receptacles as the sanitation professionals will not be shoveling and picking them up. With the ban on “single use” (I do not know which Caribbean smaddy use scandal bag once) plastic bags, I wonder if NSWMA will now have sanitation workers travelling with shovels to remove garbage dumped in those receptacles without being placed in bags.The ban on “single use” plastic will affect the poor in ways we have not considered if we do not have both the educational campaign & affordable alternatives in place and prepare NSWMA to diversity approach to waste management.

2. I wonder why we have not also banned use of plastic bottles? They are also part of the problem, plus many of them release poison in our drinks. Is it that we do not have the courage to stand up to the BIG companies who use them? I recall growing up, we took our bags to the shop or got paper bags (some with handles) and bought drinks that came in bottles. Sodas came in bottles too. It was just the other day plastic bottles came in as it was seen as more cost effective.

Ways to reduce waste & preserve environment:
1. Carry Tote/reusable bags to markets
2. Use glass containers or Recycle plastic containers for storage
3. Practice Composting (You can YouTube how it can be done with little land space)
4. Coffee shops can ask customers to carry their own flasks and hot cup and incentivise it.
5. Businesses who produce plastic bottles can partner with companies such as 360 Recycle who transform waste as part their Corporate Social Responsibility.

How do you plan on reducing your waste??


2 Responses

  1. I am absolutely with you Damien. The ban needs to extend to plastic bottles. And I really hope that this is the beginning as you have pointed out of a serious look at the broader issues of waste management and sanitation. The anti litter laws are a joke as far as enforcement is concerned for example. Hail this move and let us press for more.

  2. Thank you, Teddy, for your feedback. I think with most decisions in Jamaica, power affects who is impacted by our policy decision. The ban on the so called single use plastic is necessary but so too is a ban on plastic bottles. However, too many BIG MONEY people are involved in manufacturing products that require same and as such, their "food" needs to be protected. My only concern in this ban on "scandal bag" is that we make adequate arrangements with NSWMA, to work along with communities where people cannot afford to spend on garbage bags, for the containerising of garbage.

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