Tuesday 20 October, 2020

Private sector to raise $850m to fund deposit-refund scheme

The government is hoping that a massive $850 million undertaking to build out the infrastructure that will accommodate a deposit refund scheme, in partnership with a revamped Recycling Partners of Jamaica, will lead to the removal of 85 per cent of the 850 million plastic bottles that are generated in the country each year.

That’s according to Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, with responsibility for the environment. He made the disclosure in a ministerial statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Vaz said the government was aiming to achieve the target over the next four years.

He explained that the scheme will allow for the application of a deposit on plastic bottles placed on the market and a cash rebate to the consumer on the return of the bottles to designated redemption centres across the island.

Vaz revealed that participating members of the private sector have agreed to the institution of a self-imposed cess of $1 per bottle that will realise the $850 million to kick start the programme.

Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation

He said the initial investment will be used to, among other things, construct depots across the island to be used as collection points. It will also be used to increase collection capacity by way of truck purchases and to fund an expanded educational campaign.

“The deposit refund scheme must also be accompanied by a comprehensive and sustained national education and awareness programme…because we have to change the thinking and the culture of how we have operated,” Vaz said.

He said the government will monitor the implementation of the scheme to ensure accountability and transparency and, if deemed necessary, will promulgate legislation to govern its operation.

The minister said deposits that remain uncollected will be used to maintain the scheme as well as to provide support to the National Solid Waste Management Authority in its efforts to improve the island‘s waste management infrastructure.

He said it “presents an excellent opportunity for our recyclers to capitalize on the economic activity, particularly at the micro and small levels by designing and producing products for local and regional consumption.”

Vaz told the House that the board of the revamped and reconfigured Recycling Partners of Jamaica will have broad-based representation from both the public and private sector. He said based on the amount of work that has already taken place with CAPRI, it has been recommended that economist Dr Damien King chairs the board when it is put in place.

Vaz lamented that despite the efforts of Recycling Partners of Jamaica, currently only 11 per cent of the plastic bottles that are generated are removed from the environment with the others left to clog waterways such as gullies and drains and exacerbate flooding. He said 50 per cent of the waste generated in the country comes from plastic bottles.

“This level of recovery is inadequate and will not ensure the change the government intends to effect,” the minister said.

He pointed to studies which have shown that the implementation of a deposit refund scheme or deposit-return system for specific categories of waste, including plastic bottles, can result in a reduction in litter, increasing recycling rates and creation of decent jobs, reduction of poverty as well as support for the green economy.

Vaz also noted that a deposit refund scheme is not new to Jamaica as one of the country’s major bottlers has, for decades, ran a successful operation to facilitate the recovery of its crates and glass bottles.

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