Talking Trash: The Important Role of the Private Sector

April 1st, 2016

“Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica.”

We have heard the catchy song and watched the witty and clever videos with Rushaine “Dutty” Berry, Bella Blair and other young and talented performers. Everyone is enjoying the social media content. The Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET) “Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” campaign is making an impact, at least with a certain audience. The program is carefully crafted and the promotional materials are of a high quality and effective.

So – what more do we need? Raising awareness is one thing. Getting people to change their habits and do the right thing is another. Are public education programs like this one, in support of the Tourism Ministry’s Clean Coasts Project, pretty much “preaching to the choir”? It’s tough trying to change hearts and minds – and habits – but we have to start somewhere.

What added impetus is needed? I believe JET realizes that one of the missing ingredients is an “across the board” buy-in from the private sector – businesses large and small. By “buy-in” I mean a real commitment, backed up by actions – not just lip service. Businesses should want to be part of the solution to environmental woes, not part of the problem. It would certainly be good for their image – a selling point, perhaps.

A number of private sector representatives attended a meeting convened recently by JET to get them firmly on board. Again, one could say these were the “converted,” because they all gave a good account of themselves. Pledges were pinned to a board, committing the firms to take action.

These firms should be willing to not only set an example of an environmentally responsible business, but also to spread the word and gain some more disciples for the cause. It cannot just be a handful of Jamaican businesses involved. The message must sink in, among small and micro-businesses too.

We don't want it to look like this - but what are we doing about it? It's our problem, not someone else's!

We don’t want it to look like this – but what are we doing about it? It’s OUR problem, not someone else’s!

“Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica is not a clean-up campaign,” insisted Diana McCaulay, head of JET. “How we think about garbage needs to change.” She was supported by Director of Projects at the Tourism Enhancement Fund Christopher Miller, who explained the importance of partnerships. Yes, partnership is an over-worked word these days; but in this context I take it to mean everyone playing their part. They know what needs to be done: clean up their act.

Nor is the program a recycling initiative. When we start talking about solid waste disposal the topic of recycling always comes up. Wisynco partnering with a few other firms have made an admirable start, but the whole project needs to be scaled up considerably to make an impact. Nevertheless, recycling centers are being set up across the island. Wisynco’s François Chalifour, who has been spearheading the recycling effort, tweeted recently that alone this is not the answer: “By itself NO. Need comprehensive waste initiative.”

Jamaica Environment Trust CEO Diana McCaulay participating in the recent GraceKennedy tweet chat. (Photo: Twitter)

Jamaica Environment Trust CEO Diana McCaulay participating in the recent GraceKennedy tweet chat. (Photo: Twitter)

Mr. Chalifour, by the way, joined a tweet chat organized by GraceKennedy, in which Diana McCaulay also participated. As often happens with these online conversations, many problems were aired. It is hard to find quick solutions. Apart from the need for more bins and other infrastructure, the question of enforcing our environmental laws came up. If any of us, public or private sector, had the resources, perhaps we could set up an environmental “squad” that would traverse the island. This troop of concerned citizens would remind people (in no uncertain terms) that they should not be burning garbage by the roadside, dumping construction waste on an empty lot next to someone’s house, throwing garbage into the gullies, and so on – and point out the right way to do things. By the way, though – kudos to GraceKennedy for the well-organized and supported Twitter conversation.

Of course, I have not mentioned that improper garbage disposal is a serious health hazard. We all, surely, know about that mosquito by now? (My photo)

Of course, I have not mentioned that improper garbage disposal is a serious health hazard. We all, surely, know about that mosquito by now? (My photo)

The CB Group (CB Chicken, that is) has donated fifty bins and biodegradable bags and visited schools. Representative Alicia Bogues asserted at the JET event: “Jamaicans are not proud people.” How could they be, she reasoned, and keep their surroundings in such a filthy state? Good question. It’s a paradox: our beautiful island, and our nonchalant scattering of trash across that beauty.

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I would also like to suggest some awareness workshops for serial trash offenders. I am referring to those indisciplined taxi drivers (and their passengers) who toss garbage out of the window because they don’t want their car to be untidy. Keep a trash bag in your car and empty it in the nearest bin where you can. How about that simple concept! Other offenders are bus passengers – and uptowners, who ought to know better, in their fancy SUVs. Then, perhaps more surprisingly, in the tourist resorts where the Clean Coasts Project operates, underwater clean-ups have been taking place. One marine biologist found an extraordinary amount of garbage, thrown off the catamaran boats on which tourists go for cruises. This kind of sneaky “throwing away” (but “away” is always somewhere) almost defies logic. Why do we keep on doing it?

Then there are those (mostly taxi drivers, again) who see one piece of garbage and think they will add to it. Before long a stinking pile develops. This has been the case at the back gate of our house, where cab drivers often stop for a bite to eat. They then throw their horrible styrofoam lunch boxes and plastic bottles at our gate, without a care in the world. Someone will pick them up.

I have a large “Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” sign. It is going on that gate.

I hope they get the message.

For more information on the Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica campaign and how you can help, go to nuhduttyupjamaica.org for details.

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One Response to “Talking Trash: The Important Role of the Private Sector”

  1. […] You can find JET’s full document, Regulating Plastic Waste in Jamaica: Time to Act here: http://www.jamentrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Regulating-Plastic-Waste-in-Jamaica-Time-To-Act-May-2016.pdf The non-governmental organization has remained fully focused on this issue for a long while now. Through its Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica campaign, with funding from the Tourism Enhancement Fund under the Tourism Ministry’s Clean Coasts Project, and ongoing beach clean-ups, it has almost single-handedly kept the problem of solid waste firmly in people’s minds. I have written about this many times – most recently here, emphasizing the need for the private sector to come fully on board! http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=3234 […]