On April 21st, 2018 our rural community in Jamaica had an Earth Day Community Clean Up Day supported by the Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica Project. I partnered with the president of the local CDC to organize the event and with the support of community based organizations in the area, forty people came out to clean up litter from 3.5 km of roadside. Our teams collected an estimated combined 700-800 lbs of trash (60 x-large bags full), which was then collected by the NSWMA for proper disposal.
This event provided an excellent forum for discussion regarding responsible solid waste management. During the event, participants discussed how litter contributes negatively to both personal and environmental health. Many of the plastic bags, food wrappers, and Styrofoam boxes on the sides of the road had collected rainwater, which provides a breeding ground for mosquitos and can thus increase pests and disease in the community. Since our community is in the valley of the Rio Minho watershed, we also discussed how the trash littered in the community often finds its way into the river and eventually out to sea. This causes a myriad of negative environmental impacts for all aquatic life. Some fishermen present commented on how they have seen plastics and Styrofoam present in fish bellies when cleaning out fish from the river or the sea.
Everyone that came out to support the event was astonished at the sheer bulk of trash littering the roadsides. We saw that a majority of waste on the roadsides was food related packaging (food wrappers, straws, styrofoam food boxes, forks, plastic cups and bottles, bottle caps, and plastic grocery bags) and brainstormed methods of reducing this sort of waste littering the community. Ideas to reduce waste and have more responsible waste management disposal practices included placing more trash bins in the community (especially near cook shops), having a community plastic bottle drop off point for recycling, and reusing plastic grocery bags.
Overall it was a great event in celebration of Earth Day and awesome to see people excited to come out and support their community towards becoming a cleaner, healthier, more environmentally friendly place.