Plastikeep is under attack. Let us not bare our racial, egotistical and partisan fangs, as per usual, to destroy it; take what is holy and make it unholy. Paint the saint into the face of the devil. Plastikeep has done good. Not bad. Here are some facts on the Plastikeep plastic recovery project.
The origins: Plastikeep arose out of a passion. A deep and
salutary feeling for the architecture of the life systems which support all organic life. A deep and fundamental respect for our river and oceanic systems, forests, swamps, air, the land. This architecture is being threatened by human waste. And particularly, over the last 50 years, by errant plastic disposal.
The label: The Plastikeep label was created by Rosanna Farmer. The idea was I Keep My Plastic, and properly dispose of it. Not dump it on streets, bush, rivers or seas. Once the label was created, what was to be done with it? Miss Farmer approached corporate sponsors to develop a plastic recovery project. The Government responded; the Green Fund decided to fund it.
The Green Fund: The managers of the fund put the project under its bureaucratic microscope. It set strict systems for management, reporting and accounting. It paid out funds in phases. In return, the Plastikeep team was bound to develop schedules, reports. Scientific audits and accurate financials. Plastikeep at all times did so. The managers of the Green Fund never complained. They guided.
The team: Contrary to reports, Plastikeep was not run by a bunch of “white kids” from the north-western peninsula, with nothing better to do than collect garbage and spend free money. It was run by a highly professional unit of young women. African and of middle income, in the main. The other workers were working citizens from Laventille, Diego Martin, pigmented like that. Its board was cosmopolitan, unpaid, and often international.
The pilot: It was a pilot project. It was never mandated to make money. It was not part of its mandate to recycle. It was designed to gather information. How could waste recovery work? What was the best system? How would the people react? What might be the role of the State, and its numerous stakeholders, primary and secondary schools, established recovery companies, corporate entities, government offices? At the end, Plastikeep answered all these questions in its rigorous reports, all sent to the Government and the Green Fund.
Administrative costs: A concern was raised, correctly so, by ministers, about high administrative costs for this project. Why were they high? Plastikeep was required to development educational material; banners, posters, stickers, jerseys, cups, pencils etc. Reporters were hired for writing the reports. Strategists were hired for developing innovative systems.
A field team was developed; for continual motivation, mobilisation. Aesthetics, that is resplendence, energy, professionalism, was key; the board and director wanted to show this was not just picking up garbage. The work had to exude professionalism; recovery was not chore, but excitement. This is not a recurrent cost. The pilot is done.
Salaries: I am not able to comment on the salaries of the team. I do not know what they were. Were they proportional to tasks? I do not know. But I know work was made more painful than it ought to have been because of bureaucratic impediments. One example is as follows. At one point, a great deal of time and capital was wasted on warehousing recovered plastic. There was some legal obstacle, petty I believe, which created a logjam of plastic. This created a nightmare situation: cleaning and bagging plastic, washing bins, power-hosing spillage, at all hours, morning, noon and night, a hands-on job, was done womanfully by the director, while Rome slept.
The next step: The pilot is concluded. No need to fight.
I. Plastikeep has applied for a new charter: to build on the Plastikeep momentum and skills and knowledge gathered, to create a national education centre, involving processing simulation; and to do recycling. The next stage. Since December 2016, it has been awaiting a response. Yes or no? Despite much correspondence and meetings, between Plastikeep and the Government, there has been no declaration on this application, yea or nay.
ii. Meanwhile, Plastikeep has been footing the bill for plastic recovery, out of pocket, with the assistance of corporate sponsors, at over 70 bins. These businesses are located at schools, government offices, corporate compounds, shopping centres, public parks, and street corners. This is unsustainable. Since December 2015, no salaries, office rental, telephone, water, electricity have been paid by the authorities.
iii. What is to be done with the Plastikeep label? Who owns it? It has acquired a good name which is best left unsullied. It has sparked energy for plastic recycling, especially among schoolchildren. It has developed a system. It has provided an immense body of reportage and audit. It has shown the value of collaboration, between the Government, business entities, schools, offices, homes and an independent driver.
The Government ought to sit down with the Plastikeep board and director to decide the future of the Plastikeep label. It must pay its outstanding plastic recovery bill, for bin management and services. It must declare yea or nay on the Plastikeep application before it.
Finally, recycling requires high-energy characteristics; the Environmental Management Authority’s energy, mandate, authority (certification, policing, education, adjudication, investigation and monitoring) must not be further withered away.