The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping on Monday (June 5) said it is committed to addressing the issue of plastic pollution and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns as the global community observes World Environment Day.
The day was observed under the theme for 2023 is “Solutions to plastic pollution” and CARICOM said that plastic pollution is one of the most “pressing environmental challenges of our time, affecting our oceans, wildlife, health and climate”.
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), more than eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year, equivalent to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute. Plastic also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from production to disposal.
“CARICOM is committed to addressing the issue of plastic pollution and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns,” the regional grouping said, noting that it has taken “some actions” in line with the theme of World Environment Day 2023.
CARICOM said it has adopted a regional strategy for the management of marine litter and microplastics, which aims to reduce the generation and impact of plastic waste on the marine environment and human health.
The strategy was articulated by regional leaders at their summit in Antigua in 2019 and form part of the St. John’s Declaration that includes measures such as banning single-use plastics, promoting circular economy models, enhancing waste collection and recycling systems, and raising public awareness and education.
“CARICOM is supporting its member states in developing and implementing national policies and legislation to address plastic pollution and promote sustainable development. For example, several CARICOM countries have already banned or restricted single-use plastics and styrofoam products, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago,” said the regional body.
It said that these bans and other trade-related policy responses have been discussed among regional trade ministers in the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and that the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat subsequently commissioned an ongoing study to explore the economic and technical guidance of plastics alternatives and various bans to support the member state transition.
In addition, CARICOM member states supported UNEP’s initiative as it launched a regional campaign called “Clean Seas Caribbean” in 2021, which encourages governments, businesses and individuals to take action to reduce plastic pollution and protect marine biodiversity.
The campaign supports initiatives such as beach clean-ups, plastic-free events, green procurement policies, and innovation challenges.
Meanwhile, senior environment officials will meet on June 19 to discuss pressing environmental issues, including a way forward in coordinating CARICOM engagement during the negotiation of a global legally binding treaty to reduce plastics pollution.
The meeting precedes the ministerial conference later this month during the 108th Special Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development – Environment and Sustainable Development (COTED).
“By taking these and other actions, CARICOM is demonstrating its leadership and commitment to tackling plastic pollution holistically and protecting the environment for present and future generations. World Environment Day 2023 is an opportunity for all of us to join forces and take action for a cleaner and greener Caribbean,” said the entity.