September 16, 2016
The National Environment and Planning Agency will this weekend ramp up its drive to encourage responsible waste disposal through its activities for International Coastal Cleanup Day.
Improper waste disposal is the root cause of marine litter, a portion of which is removed from the coastal environment during the annual cleanup exercise as well as during sporadic cleanups held throughout the year.
Anthony McKenzie, Director of the Agency’s Environmental Management and Conservation Division said that while clean-ups are important, Jamaica will not begin to see a real difference in relation to garbage in the marine environment until all members of society make an effort to change their waste disposal habits.
"Majority of the garbage strewn along the coastline comes from gullies, rivers and other waterways upstream. To solve the problem, we therefore need to become more conscientious in how we discard used items, particularly those made of non-biodegradable substances like plastic and Styrofoam," said Mr. McKenzie.
Encouraging Jamaicans to take personal responsibility for the waste they generate will be the major message for the Agency’s International Coastal Cleanup Day activities at Hellshire Bay, St. Catherine on September 17. The clean-up is being hosted in conjunction with the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
Danae Vaccianna, Environmental Coordinator at the UDC said despite the fact that the event is a clean-up the most important part of the day’s activities is not the cleaning of the beach.
"ICCD is by far one of the most powerful public education activities that can change the behaviour and attitude of a volunteer towards marine litter just through their participation. Seeing first hand where the garbage ends up, how unattractive it is on the beach and the negative impact it has on the natural environment is an effective tool to persuade individuals to practice proper waste disposal."
She added that International Coastal Cleanup Day is an important event for gathering information on marine litter. This information is then used to inform initiatives and public education programmes aimed at reducing marine litter.
NEPA earlier this year launched its 'No single use plastic bag’ campaign which has been getting considerable support from the private sector and civil society. The Agency is also a key partner in the Trash Free Seas initiative launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in August. Data from Jamaica’s International Coastal Cleanup Day activities related to the types of garbage found helped in designing each of these programmes.
Volunteers will also be able to make a difference all year round by signing up for the Agency’s Adopt a Beach Programme. The initiative entails keeping a designated stretch of coastline clean all year round.
"Regular cleanups will not only make the beaches more aesthetically pleasing but will serve to sensitize individuals about the negative impact of marine litter and hopefully encourage persons to practice good disposal habits all year round," said Mr. McKenzie.
Interested individuals can contact NEPA for more information on joining the 'Adopt a Beach’ Programme.
During last year’s cleanup at Hellshire Bay approximately 2,362.7kg (5,200 pounds) of solid waste were removed from 750 metres of coastline.
Jamaica is one of more than 100 countries celebrating ICCD, which is coordinated internationally by the Ocean Conservancy. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is the national coordinator for ICCD in Jamaica. So far, over 100 cleanups have been registered island-wide.