Sandals Foundation and Partners Move to Reduce Covid-19 Litter in Whitehouse Fishing Community

In an effort to curb Covid -19 and other solid waste litter in Whitehouse, the Sandals Foundation teamed up with the National Solid Waste Management Authority to sensitize its residents and distribute some 250 reusable masks.

In a carefully coordinated community walk recently, Sandals Foundation environmental officer, marine wardens for the Whitehouse Sanctuary, and members of the solid waste management team traversed the beach and streets of the south coast community speaking with fishers, vendors, shop owners, customers and the general public about the effects of Covid-19 litter on the marine and wider environment, their lives and livelihoods.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it new types of litter, in the form of improperly discarded single-use masks, sanitization bottles, gloves and other personal protective equipment,” says Patrice Gilpin, public relations manager at the Sandals Foundation says.

“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with the Whitehouse community working with them to reduce general solid waste, and so it was important for us to expand the scope of our programme with residents by sharing with them this emerging area of concern, its impact on the marine space which supports the community’s livelihoods as well as empower them to make a positive change.”

The foundation commissioned the services of a local seamstress to sew 250 reusable masks for distribution. The goal, Georgia Lumley, environmental officer at the Sandals Foundation says, is to create a new and sustainable behaviour.

“We are encouraging people to use reusable masks. While they may seem a bit more costly up front, cloth masks last longer and are in the long run, more economical.”

The team, Lumley shared, found that persons were receptive to the information and welcomed receiving the new masks that were being distributed.

“Our initial goal was to provide one mask per person, however, many requested masks for other members of their families. This led us to giving sometimes four masks to one individual. We are encouraged by the positive reception and will be following up with more walks and reusable mask distribution”.

In 2019 the Sandals Foundation implemented the Whitehouse and Bluefields Bay Solid Waste Reduction Project to strengthen the solid waste management efforts in both communities.

That initiative, among other things, saw thousands of pounds of recyclable plastics being delivered to a drop off location established by the foundation and later transported by the Recycling Partners of Jamaica.  The project, which was financed by UN Environment and facilitated by the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute on behalf of their Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML-Caribe) also saw close to 3000 students across 7 infant and primary schools being equipped with reusable plates, bowls, cups, containers, and utensils to replace the single use Styrofoam lunch containers as well as plastic spoons and forks.

Now, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International has reengaged its financers, and developed a new project to build on the successes of the 2019 initiative.

“This project ultimately aims to reduce and prevent pollution on both land and sea,” says Lumley, “Together with our partners at NSWMA, Recycling Partners of Jamaica, the National Environment and Planning Agency, as well as our team at Sandals South Coast Resort, we will build on the efforts of the 2019 project by continuing to educate residents, collaborate with the Westmoreland Farmers’ Association  to promote the use of organic fertilizers through composting  and create a culture of sustainable environmental conservation,” said Lumley.

For their part, Sharnon Williams, Customer Relations Officer at WPM Waste Management Limited shared, “It has always been great partnering with the Sandals Foundation and we are happy to continue this partnership as we aim to keep the environment clean, while keeping safe during the covid-19 pandemic. We are aware of the dangers single use masks have on the environment, as many people are not taking due care in disposing of them properly. This initiative is quite timely, as together we encourage persons to use reusable masks, that way you will reduce the amount of solid waste you generate and you also save money. Reusable masks are certainly the way to go”.