The two-year pilot project, implemented by UNITE Caribbean, will be carried out in Saint Lucia and will focus on testing approaches and systems for setting up a plastic waste collection and recycling scheme through export from Saint Lucia to Martinique.
Felix Finisterre, Senior Project Manager for the UNITE Caribbean Saint Lucia Office, highlighted the opportunity for OECS islands to supply the EU-funded industrial plant in Martinique which specialises in the recycling of plastic bottles.
“Just 33km away in Martinique there’s a SIDREP plant which is operating way below capacity and this is because of a shortfall in the supply of raw materials – even though they are collecting all the PET bottles from the French Antilles of Martinique, French Guiana and Guadeloupe.”
“This project is intended to be a pilot project for the OECS region, targeting used PET bottles to be collected at the community level and then be exported to the SIDREP plant in Martinique."
“The idea is to pilot this project for the next two years in Saint Lucia, glean some lessons and best case studies and then replicate it in the other OECS countries,” Finisterre said.
Key objectives of the pilot project include:
Setting up a system for the collection and management of plastic waste, involving public, private and local stakeholders in Saint Lucia;
Supporting local recyclers to export used plastic bottles from Saint Lucia (eventually the Caribbean) for recycling, in particular to the SIDREP plant in Martinique;
Raising the awareness of the Saint Lucia population on the ecological issues surrounding managing and selectively sorting recyclable waste; and
Extracting key lessons from the Saint Lucia pilot project to provide relevant and applicable lessons and case studies for replication in the rest of Saint Lucia and the OECS.
The project responds to a real need given that plastic waste, especially plastic bottles are increasingly being recognised as a major source of environmental degradation, with calls to action worldwide. As a result, Government, public operators, civil society and the private sector have been collaborating since 2017 toward a coordinated and collective response to the challenges of collecting, processing and exporting recyclable waste in the Caribbean.
Head of the OECS Environmental Sustainability Cluster, Chamberlain Emmanuel, reiterated the growing concern of plastic pollution and commended the RePLAST OECS initiative as it seeks to provide the region with an avenue to responsibly manage and dispose of plastic waste.
“There is work already being done in several Member States to ban styrofoam and single use plastics but we need to take it one step further to ensure that we extract the plastic from our environment.”
“We have an opportunity with the RePLAST Project to be able to design a template to allow Member States to work from the collection of plastic to the recycling of plastic and to capitalise on the recycling plant that is available in Martinique,” Emmanuel said.
As a partner of the RePLAST OECS project, the OECS Commission will provide Monitoring and Evaluation support to ensure that the data, lessons and best practices are well documented and can be used to develop a harmonised methodology that is customised to the OECS region.
The project also responds well to recommendations from the 6th OECS Council of Ministers of Environmental Sustainability, which urged Member States to, inter alia: (a) Develop island-specific comprehensive solid waste strategies; (b) Work as a region (hub and spoke) to optimise recycling; (c) Harmonise national and regional waste management disaster recovery plans; and (d) Create an enabling environment to attract more private investment in waste management systems.
The two-day launch and workshop comprised an opening ceremony; a plenary session, which focused on information sharing and setting the context for the project; and round table sessions, where specific project themes such as community participation, recycling and export, and public awareness were discussed.
Jennifer Joseph, Business Development Officer at the National Solid Waste Management Authority in Antigua and Barbuda, shared her experience as a part of the plastic bag ban and the styrofoam ban process in Antigua and Barbuda and reviewed several lessons learned with the gathering.
“I really think the workshop is a good start. Many of the issues that we would have anticipated in Antigua, a lot of them have been overcome already and it is just a matter of implementation now.”
“It is a situation where we can learn from each other. We are willing to share our best practices, and in Saint Lucia there are going to be new challenges that will be faced and we can also learn from these experiences,” Joseph added.
Wayne Neale, Chief Operating Officer of Greening the Caribbean – an environmental management company that provides waste management and recycling services to the private sector – also shared his professional waste management experiences with the group, stressing the importance of public sensitisation in addition to the collection of plastic waste to ensure the longevity of the project. Neale also outlined the critical need to "remove the level of dependency that we have on single-use plastic."
The RePLAST OECS project is funded primarily by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its Saint Lucia-based Embassy to the OECS and Barbados, with support from the Government of Saint Lucia, the OECS Commission, the private sector and civil society in Saint Lucia.
H.E. Phillipe Ardanaz, Ambassador of the French Embassy to the OECS and Barbados welcomed the opportunity to deepen relations among OECS Member States and conveyed the pleasure of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to partner, participate and finance the RePLAST OECS project.
"Regional Integration in the Caribbean has enjoyed good momentum for several years and today RePLAST is proof of this new dynamic. Regional Integration will be strengthened thanks to RePLAST and RePLAST will also be able to give impetus to many similar initiatives."
"Once more, this is the beginning of a long journey and RePLAST OECS will be a real success only if it paves the road for a future where waste in the wild will be a distant memory."