Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, reuse, recycle... In our hemisphere.
Reduce, reuse, recycle… In our hemisphere.

Many years ago, the “three R’s” were Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. But now – at least for the last twenty years or so – they mean Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

Has our little island of Jamaica adopted this mantra, over the years? I would answer with a resounding “NO.”

Garbage in Kingston Harbour last year. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)
Garbage in Kingston Harbour last year. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

The island has been slowly disappearing under growing piles of garbage  since the 1980s. It’s everywhere you look – on the roadsides, on beaches, in the sea, in gullies in the city and in the forested gullies of the countryside, in any public location. Even in tourist resorts. It’s one reason why I don’t enjoy going to the beach, any more – unless it’s one of those well-manicured hotel beaches. But in general, we Jamaicans like to spread our garbage – scatter it far and wide. We throw it out of the windows of buses and plush SUVs, without a care in the world. Even on our street, which is supposed to be in a fairly well-to-do uptown residential area, our posh neighbors virtually ignore garbage dumped on their doorstep and generously distributed by the ubiquitous stray dogs and street people. Eventually, they may tell their gardeners to go out and pick it up.

I get odd looks when I go outside the gate and collect garbage deposited on the sidewalk near our house. What on earth is she doing out there? our neighbors are thinking. But how long does it take to pick up a couple of plastic bottles? Five minutes or less?

It is mostly sheer laziness and carelessness. We like our houses and our cars to be tidy and clean, but beyond that – well, someone else can do it. It’s not our responsibility.

Littering is one thing. Getting citizens into the recycling mindset – and actually organizing it on a larger scale – is another.

So I was delighted to hear that a new recycling company has set up shop in Jamaica. Jamaica Recycles is backed by the U.S.-based International Recycling and Reclamation Limited. It will focus on plastic (the curse of the developing world) and paper, initially. Residents in the area around the huge Riverton City garbage dump on the edge of the city will benefit from collecting plastic from surrounding communities. Jamaica Recycles will also work with the Jamaican government’s National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA), which has completely fallen down on the job in recent months (one suspects because they have no money to pay truck drivers to actually collect garbage). But that’s another story. I should add in NSWMA’s defense that this lack of resources is a chronic problem; and that the agency is trying to get a Plastic Container Separation Pilot Project under way, which is a start. They recognize the problem, but…


Executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Jennifer Edwards (second right), shows the types of plastic containers that will be collected under the Plastic Container Separation Pilot Project. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)
Executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Jennifer Edwards (second right), shows the types of plastic containers that will be collected under the Plastic Container Separation Pilot Project. (Photo: Rudolph Brown/Gleaner)
Dennis Soriano, co-owner and President of Jamaica Recycles. Harold Kristen is his partner. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)
Dennis Soriano, co-owner and President of Jamaica Recycles. Harold Kristen is his partner. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner)

In the next couple of years, all being well, Jamaica Recycles will expand into areas outside Kingston – in particular into western Jamaica. This would be most welcome. Garbage collection in many districts outside the city is even more unreliable. I do hope they make lots of money out of this venture.

Along with it, I would like to see a really meaningful public education campaign. Not “Don’t litter! It’s really naughty and bad.” A campaign which shows, as graphically as possible, the impact of this tide of trash on our health, on our still beautiful environment, on our precious, fragile tourism industry. Something punchy.

If you want to know more about the impact of land-based pollution – that is, all the nasty stuff we produce and then pour into our ocean and rivers and groundwater – then you should talk to Mr. Christopher Corbin, Program Officer for the Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean. If you want to find out what pollution is doing to the areas we are trying to protect, and to the creatures that live in them (in particular the fish that many depend on for a living) then talk to UNEP’s Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, who administers the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife program. Along with several media representatives, I met with these dedicated people last week at the UNEP office for a long and incredibly informative session. Much more on that to follow in future blog posts.

Christopher Corbin, Program Officer/Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution, United Nations Environment Program Caribbean, speaking at Thursday's press meeting at the program's Kingston headquarters. (My photo)
Christopher Corbin, Program Officer/Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution, United Nations Environment Program Caribbean, speaking at Thursday’s press meeting at the program’s Kingston headquarters. (My photo)

One interesting project has emerged that is quite promising and innovative. It is called Island Cycle and it is a Trash to Art” program organized by young Kingston-dwellers. The project hopes to offer inspiration – and income – to the residents of Riverton City. Look at the conditions in communities surrounding the Riverton City dump, and more about the project, in this video: Also check out their crowd-funding site below, and support! 

I read somewhere that there are “other options” for garbage disposal. These are:

Generate – capturing useful material for waste to energy programs. Includes Methane collection, gasification, and digestion, and the term Recover.

Incinerate – high temperature destruction of material. Differs from gasification in that oxygen is used; differs from burning in that high temperatures consume material efficiently and emissions are controlled.

Devastate – to discard into the natural environment, or to “trash” the planet. Includes litter, landfill, burn barrels, unnecessary vehicle idling, and dumping discards onto land or into water.

Jamaica is much, much too good at the Devastate option. Do we really want to destroy our island with trash?

Some of our plastics ready for recycling. (My photo)
Some of our plastics ready for recycling. (My photo)

On a personal note: We already recycle much of the garbage from our Kingston home. We drop off all our plastics and glass at the Jamaica Environment Trust. We take our newspapers to the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), who are always in need. There are probably other places where you can take your trash; I understand that there is a recycling center in the western town of Negril, for example. These are the ones I know that would be handy for Kingston dwellers.

Jamaica Environment Trust: Earth House, 11 Waterloo Road, Kingston 10. Tel: (876) 960-3693. Email: Website:

JSPCA: 10 Winchester Road, Kingston 10. Tel: (876) 929-0320. Website:

United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme: 14-20 Port Royal Street, Kingston. Tel: (876) 922-9267-9. Email: Website:

Related articles and websites: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Recycling Guide: UK New recycling company opens in Kingston: Jamaica Observer New garbage recycling company launches in Kingston: Gleaner Island Cycle Trash to Art Project: crowd-funding website Recycle worry: Plastic bottles flood Jamaica: Gleaner Recycling does not reduce waste: Small Footprint Family Jamaica Environment Trust Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP)

Jamaican Startup Island Cycle is Crowdfunding on Select 6 to Uplift… (

First Reduce, Then Reuse and Recycle Last (

No Matter What, Recycling Is Worth the Effort (

Garbage collected by the Jamaica Environment Trust volunteers at the 2012 beach clean-up. (Photo: JET website)
Garbage collected by the Jamaica Environment Trust volunteers at the 2012 beach clean-up. (Photo: JET website)

30 thoughts on “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  1. I am intresting in my kids school to become a part of this recycling process, they started saying the plastic bottles , how can i contact you people to come and pick them up ,


    1. Dear Charmaine: It’s great that the school has started this initiative! Is it in Kingston? There is a depot at Lyndhurst Road but I am not sure about collection.
      Some time ago I interviewed the people from Recycling Partners and here are their contact details: Ann Marie Rodriques, Business Development Manager, Recycling Partners of Jamaica Ltd. Tel: 320-0090 AND Francois Chalifour, Director, Wisynco Email: Tel: 371-35779; 665-9000
      I hope this helps! Please let me know if you are successful! All the best.


  2. When I wrote about this during the week,, it occurred to me that Jamaicans are untidy, for sure, in the sense that they ‘throw things away’ as a matter of course–eg, from car or bus windows–and also don’t see as unpleasant pile of trash and garbage. It used to be mainly food or more easiy degradable things. It’s been that way for a long time, and it used to be that, with pigs and goats roaming the streets, much of this went away. Now, pigs are rarely seen in Kingston, and the goats can’t ‘cope’, and more of what we throw wont degrade (eg, plastics, of which the food box and plastic bottle are major villains).

    I think the education has really be lacking but also not put over in a way that makes simple sense. Much could be done by some simple neighborhood demos or presentations that show what the gully rubbish does. I think, most people see what’s nearby with little idea that it flows to the sea.

    Jamaica, being what it is, wont respond well to the usual price incentives that could help change behaviour, unless it’s to give people money for disposing of garbage.


    1. I absolutely agree on public education. It just makes sense. Problem is though in many of these communities there is not proper garbage collection. The NSWMA could do a great deal more in this regard, without expending large amounts of money. Just put in more skips and clear them regularly or have some collection point in the community where the pigs and goats could rummage if need be but which would be regularly CLEARED. There was a TV report just last night about this – residents complaining about an overflowing skip.

      By the way, I have seen goats eating plastic bags!! I don’t know if that helps with the recycling concept… 🙂


  3. it appears so, those people are like square pegs in round holes, maybe if there is some entity that would deal with this seriously, we the people could agitate for some action, positive action that is


  4. the chamber of commerce here, at one point they wanted to lease out the operations, just a lot of blah, thanks for the info, will keep in touch


  5. Thanks in advance, the recycling centre in Negril does not appear to be operational at this time, hence my wanting to know when the new entity might roll out plans in this area


    1. Hi Gilbert: So sorry to be late getting back to you. I checked with my friends at Jamaica Environment Trust and they tell me the closest centre to you is Montego Bay – Nulife Recycling have a depot there – Call 791-2219. Why is the Negril center not operational? I don’t understand. Who operates it? I remember it opening with some fanfare not so long ago…


    1. Hi Gilbert. Thanks for your comment! We take our plastic and glass to an environmental NGO but that is just a collection point. I will ask them for the details, and let you know.


  6. Pingback: Petchary's Blog
  7. Fully agree about the need to recycle and seeing trash everywhere irks me tremendously. I read the other re-use article you posted on twitter this morn, and it got me thinking about how poverty and a lack of access promotes re-use and how as we have got more access to cheaper goods we have given up many of those practices as a country. For example, growing up, we didn’t casually discard plastic bottles (but then sodas didn’t come in plastic so there was a lot less) But for many of in the working class, plastic bottles were reused to store water, to carry drinks to school etc. Heck I was recently teasing my mother that you know you’re poor when you re-use matches.


    1. Thanks so much Tanya for your comment. In fact, you know I was going to mention that very point – it was at the back of my mind. My husband has told me how much of what was used in his house growing up in downtown Kingston was recycled. He even learnt how to darn socks etc. They were not well off. But that way of life has gone, and now we are a “throw away” society. We would buy a new pair of socks now, wouldn’t we, not darn the hole. At home, we still try to reuse things as much as possible – we have trained ourselves – but… Of course it is the same in many other countries, developed and developing. We were very thrifty in the UK post-war years of my childhood; nothing was ever wasted. It’s all changed now although recycling in UK households is pretty common there now. We have a long way to go, though. This is one of those situations where we do need to go BACK to the old ways! “Progress” isn’t always quite what it seems… Yes, re-using matches is quite an extreme example, isn’t it!


  8. I love this. I was actually interested in this issue ever since I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Tipping Point” that maybe the amount of physical destruction (specifically graffiti) in a city influences its crime rate- it’s directly proportional, he said. I thought that we have the perfect environment in Jamaica to see if there is any truth to that. And we wouldn’t stop at just cleaning up graffiti, we would clean up our nation little by little until it sparkles from afar :). Surely, cleaning up our country can’t serve to hurt even if the theory is not accurate.


    1. Thanks for visiting my blog! And for your comments. That is a very good point… I think your environment does certainly impact your behavior at some level, and it is sad when I see inner-city (and rural) communities that are perhaps not as strong and cohesive as they might be. One sign is the “couldn’t care less” attitude to their surroundings. In Jamaica I find political graffiti especially offensive – but have no problem with colorful murals! Having said that, as I hinted in my article, there are plenty of “upscale” areas that ought to know better. (I like the idea of our island “sparkling from afar” – lovely image!) Thanks again and visit with me again soon!


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