Key takeaways from Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator’s discussion on circular living in the Caribbean

Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator
Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
2 June 2023

Alongside Caribbean government leaders, Virgin Unite and Richard Branson are involved in the coalition of partners who founded the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator (CCSA) in 2018. 

The CCSA recently hosted a discussion about recycling and circular living in the Caribbean, and what can be done to encourage more recycling in the area. Judlyn Telesford-Checkley, CEO and founder of Grenada Grows, Kimberley Phillip-Daniel, project officer of the Environmental Management Authority managed Recyclable Solid Waste Collection Project (RSWCP) and Dr Damien King Chairman of Recycling Partners of Jamaica (RPJ) joined Dianne Squires, the CCSA’s communications consultant to discuss some of their triumphs and tribulations in establishing recycling programmes in the region. 

Success comes from collaboration

Dr King said that Recycling Partners of Jamaica works with manufacturers of plastic bottles to encourage recycling. Many of the big manufacturers – including Pepsi – have a long history of wanting to take responsibility for the waste that they produce, however to successfully address the problem, it needs to be done in a coordinated way across all manufacturers. 

“It’s a growing problem, it’s a huge environmental problem and it is best tackled collectively – rather than individually by the manufacturers, who are competitors in many ways,” he said. “And these manufacturers have contributed towards plastic bottle recycling, extending their responsibility to the entire product lifecycle.” 

Logistics can present challenges

Kimberly said that RSWCP has partnered with haulage contractors to establish the iCARE recycling programme, which is designed for public and household use, but sometimes find that private organisations are using the iCARE bins for their recycling – which can lead to overflowing bins. “This then puts an additional strain on our haulage contractors to visit that bin more frequently,” she said.  

She also said that they still end up with general waste, or non-sorted recycling items in the wrong bins, which makes their job harder in the long run. The haulage partners then have to sort the recycling before it can be transported to the depot. 

It’s a significant challenge that limits effective recycling, however there are clear solutions available. 

Education is key

Recycling Partners of Jamaica is helping people to understand why recycling is important, and making it easier for people to recycle. People are less likely to recycle if they have to go out of their way to do so, which is why RPJ has introduced more locations for people to leave bottles for recycling – gas stations, schools and other places that people regularly visit anyway. But if people don’t understand why recycling is important then they just won’t do it.  

Dr King said: “We have a public education programme that is always running and making the case for why we need to take on plastic recycling as a national objective.” 

Programmes need to scale

To see success across the whole region, programmes that work in one island need to scale to work across the Caribbean.  

“Every island has a waste problem. We are challenged with space, finding new sites for landfill is an issue,” Judlyn said. She added that Grenada Grows already has plans to work with other islands to establish a similar biomass recycling programme. “We already have a model for every island, our plans are totally scalable and it’s what every island needs.” 

Watch the full discussion on CCSA’s YouTube channel to find out more about these inspiring organisations.