The OECS Embracing the Circular Economy as an  Opportunity for an Inclusive and Resource-Smart Future
Port Kingstown, St Vincent
Special Features
June 3, 2022

The OECS Embracing the Circular Economy as an Opportunity for an Inclusive and Resource-Smart Future

For centuries we have lived under a linear economy scheme which is based on the practice of take -make dispose and for us in the OECS it has proven to have devastating environmental, health and economic consequences. Our unsustainable consumption and production processes do not take into consideration the ecological impacts, such as the pollution of our marine spaces, liberation of greenhouse gasses, degradation of our limited land space, loss of biodiversity, and the declining quality of human health.

The circular economy involves moving away from the current linear consumption model, in which resources are extracted, turned into products, consumed and finally discarded. In a circular world, products and materials are kept in circulation for as long as possible by designing them to be more durable, reusable, repairable and recyclable. In the case of the OECS, transitioning to a circular economy is critical for achieving the targets for sustainable development including the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The circular economy is also critical in addressing the waste crisis, which threatens our environment, public health and our economic development throughout the sub-region. At least 40 per cent of plastic waste which we consume does not make it to managed landfills or recycling facilities but instead gets disposed in a manner which negatively impacts our land and ocean spaces in the form of marine litter and microplastic particles. In addition, the transition to a circular economy has the potential to drive job creation, value addition and economic growth, when supported by appropriate policies, legislation and incentives.

The findings of a 2017 World Bank report highlights the need for urgent action to reverse alarming trends of plastics marine pollution in the Caribbean. In this regard the report concluded that “without improved management of the Caribbean’s natural capital, the region stands to lose its economic backbone—a vibrant, healthy ocean that provides food and income to its population year after year”.

The governments of the OECS alongside the OECS Commission are already doing a great deal to tackle the problem of plastic marine litter, including a national collection system supported by waste management, deposit-refund system for PET bottles, a pilot plastic bottle reducing program, as well as a charge on single use shopping bags in some territories, and the implementation of the ReMLit and ECROP projects. These are important steps that have been taken; however, to be successful we need every citizen on board as effective stewards of the environment, committed to a circular economy.

In the OECS our pristine environment is the lifeblood of our economies and one of the greatest threats to our environment is plastic waste. We therefore need to turn the tide on plastic waste, protect biodiversity and keep the oceans rich and clean. It’s an investment in our own survival. We can contribute to a circular economy by taking personal responsibility for our consumption and disposal practices.