Plastic recycling in Jamaica: an incomplete story

This summer, our National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) started a pilot project to recycle plastic bottles in certain communities in Kingston and St. Catherine parishes, covering approximately 2,000 households, with some 10,000 people. It was anticipated that the equivalent of 347 tonnes of solid waste or 3.8 million plastic bottles would be collected. We were informed that 1.2 million tonnes of solid waste is generated in Jamaica annually, 75 per cent of which ends up at the country’s disposal sites; a “miniscule” portion of the remaining 25 per cent is recycled by small entities. One of those entities is the Jamaican Environment Trust (JET ) who offer recycling drop off at their offices. The bulk of the remaining solid waste ends up all over the place, as the video shows on a rainy day, as one of the water channels coming off the mountains winds its way down to the sea.

Recycling ‘depot’, Trelawny

The pile of plastic bottles in the shadow of the trees is the kind of ‘recycling depot’ I’ve seen at a few places in the country areas of Jamaica, when I drive around.

Among the other small entities that recycles are outfits such as that below, off Shortwood Road, St. Andrew, which has been a bottle depot for all the time I’ve been back in Jamaica.

In the big picture for Jamaica, we know that sites such as these are really minimal, indeed, but they do indicate willingess to do something other than let garbage, such as reusable bottles just fly around.

I’ve seen several men riding on bicycles in the corporate area with large sacks of plastic bottles. We know that a lot of reusage occurs because we can see the items ‘packaged’ by informal traders, whether it’s things like honey or cooking oil, where plastic bottles may have a better life than glass bottles.

Recycling ‘depot’, St. Andrew

Anyway, I’m curious to know how the project is going (it’s now three months in), and have asked NSWMA and their Chairman if they could offer an update. Let’s see what response comes back.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)