“The garbage we picked up tells you a lot about out our lifestyle,” said Odette Parague. She was just one of several hundred volunteers from schools and companies across the island working to clean the Fort Rocky Beach on the Palisadoes Peninsula. They were participating in International Coastal Cleanup Day, organized by the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JETS) as part of a global beach cleanup programme involving about half a million individuals, last Saturday, September 25. “Jamaicans throw their garbage anywhere they feel,” Mrs. Parague said. The NEM Insurance Company Motor Underwriting Department Assistant Manager explained that, “This is a problem as it gets washed down into the sea and out along our coast.”
A critical part of the beach cleanup involves categorizing the type of garbage found, in order to determine the main constituents and their sources, Diana McCaulay, JETS Chief Executive Officer pointed out. She said, “We are not just picking up the garbage but recording what we found.” “We collected mostly plastic items,” Mrs. Parague stated. That included empty drink bottles, deodorant and shampoo containers, plastic caps, plastic toys and beach slippers. More than 80 per cent of trash found on beaches in the Caribbean comes from onshore activities such as eating fast food, sports and recreational activities, according to data from Ocean Conservancy, the agency which organises International Coastal Cleanup day.
Ocean Conservancy found that garbage then remains in the environment for hundreds of years. “We need to take better care of the environment,” declared Chris Hind, General Manager of NEM, who headed a 27 member working group from his company at Fort Rocky Beach. He stated that, “Jamaica’s main asset, apart from our people, is our environment.” NEM is involved in insuring the value assets, but they lose their value and become more prone to natural hazards in a degraded environment, Mr. Hind pointed out. NEM chose to be a co-sponsor of the event as, he said, “We feel a sense of responsibility to help take care of our environment.”
Kai McDonald, Miss Earth Jamaica, another participant in the cleanup, noted that different organizations and schools had united for the activity. She said, “I am thrilled to see the amount of support for this cause.” The large number of young people who were among the 1,100 volunteers at Fort Rocky Beach was not accidental, Ms. McCaulay pointed out. She said, “The first reason we do this as an educational activity.” When the youngsters come to the cleanup, they confront the garbage they have carelessly discarded, the JETS founder indicated. The aim is to make them more environmentally aware. “We have achieved something here,” Mrs. Parague said of the beach cleanup. The event, one of 46 others co-ordinated by JETS on Saturday, “Invites others to come and help shape the future of our island, and ultimately our planet.”