The Caribbean Sea, with its high level of biodiversity, covers less than one percent of the world’s ocean area (2.75 million sq km), nonetheless, it directly supports the economies of 34 coastal and small island countries and territories. It is a large marine ecosystem characterized by coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grasses as well as sandy beaches and rocky shores. These tropical ecosystems present high biodiversity associated with fauna and flora, and has resulted in high rates of national and regional endemism and contains the greatest concentration or rate and endemic marine species in the Western Hemisphere. Consequently, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) marine and coastal assets offer an unprecedented opportunity for strengthening the region’s economy and closing the gap on poverty and unemployment rates.
Given that the marine space of small island states is significantly larger than their land mass and clearly a substantial asset, transitioning to a Blue Economy is critical to ensuring continued economic growth for our islands. With this in mind, the OECS embraces transition to a Blue Economy, enunciating that the region’s marine and coastal assets offer an unprecedented opportunity for strengthening the region’s economy, and closing the gap on poverty and unemployment rates. As one of the key Blue Economy frontrunners in the region, the OECS has taken a first step to enabling the transition to a Blue Economy through the adoption of the Eastern Caribbean Regional Ocean Policy (ECROP) and its associated strategic action plan (ECROP SAP). The ECROP was approved in 2013 by the OECS Authority along with a Strategic Action Plan. The ECROP provides an OECS-wide framework for regional coordination of sustainable development, management and conservation of ocean resources. The ECROP recognises that water quality and marine pollution have the potential to derail efforts and transitioning to a Blue Economy and thus are particularly concerning.
In general, while OECS countries have solid waste management systems in place, it is noted that for the most part there is no source separation or collection of recyclables; no readily accessible local markets for recycled waste; and the cost of managing waste is exorbitant, posing a challenge for many governments to move to effective waste management systems, and contributing to an increase in marine litter.
In support of actions being taken to address waste management in the OECS, there is an urgent need to update and strengthen the enabling environment and coordinating mechanism(s) for waste (including plastics, Styrofoam and other materials contributing to marine litter) management in OECS member states. In November 2019, the OECS Commission, with support from the Government of Norway through the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commenced implementation of the Project, Building Resilience in the Eastern Caribbean through Reduction in Marine Litter (ReMLit) which seeks to contribute to building resilience in marine ecosystems through a reduction in marine litter in the Eastern Caribbean. As part of the ReMLit Project a number of interventions are being undertaken in the ReMLit participating countries. This consultancy focuses on the intervention for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
An economic evaluation undertaken of the marine biodiversity and its related eco-services provided in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines revealed a potential aggregate value of EC$5,169,985.50. Despite their significance to the national economy and the wellbeing and livelihoods of Vincentians, coastal and marine ecosystems are threatened by point and non-point sources of land-based sources of pollution. Solid waste pollution reaching coastal areas through indiscriminate disposal not only affects the aesthetics of the country’s beaches, but also poses a threat to marine fauna which are trapped in the debris or choke on it due to ingestion.
The Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has sought to address this issue through implementation of a ban on certain single use plastics and Styrofoam food containers. Additionally, an existing private public partnership between All Islands Recycling Inc (AIR Inc.) and the Solid Waste Management Unit since 2013, has resulted in some 38 million containers (plastic bottles and aluminum tins) being removed from environment and exported. This programme is sustained by the Environmental Levy Act of 1991 which imposed a customs deposit on the importation of items packaged in non- returnable containers (bottles and cans) .This deposit can be refunded once the importer re-exports or disposes the containers in approved manner within six months of importation. This deposit- refund strategy provides a financial incentive to harvesters, primarily individuals of the lower income strata who are removing the empty containers littering their communities. The programme has also helped to alleviate poverty among women. Of the approximately 300 harvesters who sell containers to AIR Inc. monthly, 60% are women and the average income of a typical waste seller is approximately USD130. Two percent (2%) of the women make a regular monthly sale of valuing USD 1,100.
It is adjudged that the current programme captures a very small percentage of recyclables and there is potential for significant expansion in terms of quantity and type of items that can be collected and processed. However, changes in the international market for plastics, is making exportation more difficult and less profitable. It is therefore necessary to find ways to scale up this programme to capture more recyclables (through perhaps amendments to the legislation, improved collections and importation of recyclables from other islands) to possible enable recycling at the local level. There is also potential to include other waste products, such as used tires, in PPP waste management arrangements. Currently these tires are collected from tire shops by a state agency (BRAGSA) for a small fee and disposed of via open burning.
 Christy and Teelucksingh, 2012
Notice expires at 11:59pm on Friday December 11th, 2020