OECS Tackling Plastic Pollution Problem In Eastern Caribbean

plastic waste management in the Caribbean
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Photo: OECS

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 — August 31 marked the completion of Phase 1 of the RePLAST-OECS Pilot Plastic Recycling Project, with all key implementation targets met. Against a long-term plan to create, pilot and replicate a novel end-to-end process for plastic waste management in the Caribbean, the Project was launched in May 2019 as a not-for-profit public private initiative by the Caribbean consulting firm, Unite Caribbean, with Saint Lucia serving as the pioneering Pilot Country.

Implemented over a two-year period, the pilot phase focused on research, design and testing. A community-led and incentivized Plastic Waste Collection System involving public, private and local communities has been established in partnership with Gros-Islet Constituency Council, Vieux-Fort South Constituency Council, the Laborie Development Foundation and Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN). As of August 31, RePLAST-OECS has 254 trained volunteers attached to its four collection points. In addition, hotel partners to date are Bay Gardens Resorts, Harbour Club, Coconut Bay Resort and Hotel Chocolat.

In 21 days of operation since community collection began in four areas, more than 65,000 pounds of plastic bottles have been collected, and effectively diverted from the Deglos Landfill. More than EC$45,000 has been redeemed by the +1,800 registered patrons in cash value of rewards, creating livelihood opportunities for Saint Lucians.

Following the dispatch of two experimental shipments of Saint Lucia stockpile of plastics to the partnering recycling plant in Honduras in May and June 2020, the volume collected by the pilot phase is currently being baled to be exported in the coming weeks by two selected recyclers, equipped and trained by the project to support commercial shipments.

The Initiative is now entering a period of review and assessment of the outcomes, with recommendations to guide the eventual upscaling of the system in Saint Lucia, and its replication in the OECS. This would then result in a sustainable recycling programme in Saint Lucia and the OECS Countries.

Unite Caribbean ascribes the achievement of this milestones to the committed coalition of Public and Private Sector Partners, Community Partners, Volunteers and Patrons. “From a project management perspective, having to deal with a major pandemic is the kind of challenge no project wants to have to deal with. Yet, RePLAST-OECS met its planned implementation timeline, give or take a few months lost due to the mandatory periods of enforced nationwide protocols,” said Shanta King, Project Director, Unite Caribbean.

This, she went on to say, was recognized and commended by representatives of the coalition of project donors in the final reporting meeting.

“Despite the economic downturn, Saint Lucian companies who truly endorse and support recycling still agreed to support the incentive programme. And despite the sobering reality of life during COVID-19, Community partners and volunteers stood up as the face of the Project, something which has been as effective as our educational outreach in motivating others to reuse and recycle plastics,” said Thomas Chollet, CEO of Unite Caribbean.

The pilot project of RePLAST-OECS was mainly funded by the Government of France, represented in Saint Lucia by the French Embassy. Additional funding was provided by development agencies, namely, GIZ, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF SPC), Massy Stores, Heineken Saint Lucia and the Coca-Cola Company.

The period September to December shall see a review of the system to adjust and develop Phase 2. Collection activities may be reduced to fortnightly collections. New funding streams are being pursued to support the continuation of the project in Phase 2, which can hopefully be expanded island-wide in 2022.

The RePLAST‒OECS Pilot Plastic Recycling Project launched in May 2019, is a two-year public-private initiative, being implemented by UNITE Caribbean and is aimed at setting-up an incentivized plastic waste collection and recycling scheme. The plastic collected will be exported to a recycling plant in the Caribbean, promoting a circular economy model. The first pilot country is Saint Lucia with subsequent replication in the OECS countries. To date, the RePLAST‒OECS Project has facilitated an experimental shipment working with local recyclers. This included two 40- foot containers of baled PET bottles of approximately 26,000 pounds (lbs). This exported plastic waste would normally be disposed of, and as a result, has increased the life of the Landfill.

UNITE Caribbean is a Caribbean cooperation and development consulting firm, supporting the social and economic development of Caribbean territories through regional technical cooperation. Unite Caribbean consults on behalf of governments and the private sector on projects of paramount importance to Caribbean in a range of disciplines including Public Governance, Climate Change, Environment, Education, Sport, Economic Development, and Public health.

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