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Hilton Rose Hall team members check the bags of bottles collected during the competition. - Contributed

Bottle drive a success at Hilton Rose Hall

A total of 72,000 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, commonly called plastic bottles, were collected from various sites across Montego Bay during the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa's interdepartmental bottle collection and recycling competition, which ran throughout the month of May.

The aim of the competition was to raise awareness of environmental conservation. It entailed each department using available resources to gather as many bottles as possible over a 31-day period. At the end, the Housekeeping Department won the competition, with the Accounts and Activities departments taking second and third place, respectively.

The competition was the brainchild of the newest member of the human resources team, Vanessa Uter, who saw the need to foster environmental conservation within the resort. She collaborated with the hotel's security manager, Rory Shepherd, to organise the competition.

The departments extended their bottle collection and clean-up efforts to neighbouring communities, including the Barrett Town Market, the Dump Up Beach on Gloucester Avenue in the city, as well as other garbage-strewn areas of the parish capital. The Human Resources Department cleaned up the golf course, two neighbouring basic schools and the immediate environs of the hotel. So great was the enthusiasm that the Bratchers, an American family that visits the hotel each year and does charity work in the community, got involved and cleaned up a neighbouring school.

Over in St Ann, the Jewel Resorts also started their programmes and already collected more than 100,000 bottles just 10 days into the month of June.

According to the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme (UNEP) Policy on plastics, economic growth and changes in consumption and production patterns have caused a sharp increase in plastic use, and consequently, waste plastic is becoming a major waste stream in developing countries.

"Due to the properties of the plastics, the high quantities being generated and the lack of efficient end-of-life management, this poses serious threats to the environment and human health. Even in best cases, when plastics are disposed of in sanitary landfills, they occupy large spaces and prevent the proper decay of other waste," the policy document states.

In June 2014, the UN Environment Assembly expressed concern over widespread plastic waste and the imminent threat it posed to marine life, the financial damage of which was estimated at US$13 billion.

A UNEP-supported report produced by the Plastic Disclosure Project and Trucost, titled Valuing Plastic, also noted that a large and unquantifiable amount of plastic waste enters the ocean from littering, poorly managed landfills, tourist activities and fisheries.

"Some of this material sinks to the ocean floor, while some float and can travel over great distances on ocean currents, polluting shorelines and accumulating in massive mid-ocean gyres," the report said. "There have been many reliable reports of environmental damage due to plastic waste that include mortality or illness when ingested by sea creatures such as turtles; entanglement of animals, such as dolphins and whales; and damage to critical habitats, such as coral reefs."

The Valuing Plastic report also found that "while consumer goods companies currently save $4 billion each year through good plastic management, such as recycling, plastic use disclosure is poor. The report recommended that companies monitor their plastic use and publish the results in annual reports; and commit to reducing the environmental impact of plastic through clear targets, deadlines and efficiency and recycling innovations, and that by putting a financial value on impacts - such as plastic waste - companies can further integrate effective environmental management into mainstream businesses". 

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