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Bouteille plastique sur la plage du Diamant, Martinique
As “Latin American and Caribbean Weeks” enters its third week, international negotiations for a treaty to end plastic pollution are being held in Paris. The link between the two? The Caribbean is awash in plastic, and the new project “Recycle OECS” is to be piloted in two Caribbean countries in an effort to reduce plastic pollution.

From lush greenery to sun-drenched beaches, the Caribbean hosts an abundance of biodiversity. But it’s increasingly threatened by a rising tide of plastic pollution. Of the 13 million tons of solid waste produced in the region every year, much of it is plastic, which puts pressure on both the marine environment and on the economy. Plastic contaminates marine life in the oceans, with consequences for both fishing and tourism. As a result, residents are living under the threat of potentially devastating effects on biodiversity, human health, and their income. What’s more, the problem is not going to be resolved overnight, given the lack of infrastructure needed to process toxic substances. 

See also: Regional Project for Plastic Waste Management in the Atlantic Ocean

To confront this environmental crisis, AFD has teamed up with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the European Union (which delegated €2.5 million) to create the Recycle OECS project. Its aim is to design a model for a sustainable supply chain to manage plastic waste, and to test this model in two OECS member states.

It will also examine the feasibility for a plastic waste collection and treatment network, which would be the first of its kind in the region. “We’re all responsible, whether we’re the private sector, civil society, the Government, or an individual,” says OECS Director General Didacus Jules. “We must all adopt a circular-economy solution to fight plastic pollution.” 

Recycle OECS is being deployed in connection with the EU-Caribbean cooperation partnership for solid waste management. Three organizations have received grants to implement key projects that support this EU-CARIFORUM partnership on solid waste management: AFD, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The project is part of the European Union’s “Zero Waste in the Caribbean” initiative, whose goal is to reduce waste generation, improve waste management practices, promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, and encourage innovation in waste management.

See also: Latin America and Caribbean Week 2023

A pioneering project for the region

Only two countries will be selected as demonstration areas, but the model will be expanded to other OECS member states, taking into account their geographical and political characteristics. “We’re more than just small island developing states: we’re ‘big ocean economies’ with 85 times more ocean space than land on average,” says Chamberlain Emmanuel, head of the OECS’s Environmental Sustainability Division. “This ocean space is a practically infinite and an untapped resource offering opportunities for livelihoods and prosperity, but only if we act responsibly in tackling the enemy: pollution.” 

Key stakeholders are being consulted, with the aim of designing a sustainable supply chain for the transport and export of collected plastic. Recycle OECS will work with local civil society organizations, schools, and community groups in the selected countries to promote waste reduction and recycling.

The idea is to make households, young people, and citizens in general aware of the environmental and health risks of plastic pollution. Organizers hope to create local jobs by expanding opportunities for service providers both in the field of waste collection and transport as well as in communication and public awareness-raising.

AFD Group, a key player in the Caribbean region

Expertise France, one of the components of AFD Group, is also involved in regional projects financed by the European Union. One such project is the Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity Program (RESEMBID), which promotes sustainable human development in 12 British, Dutch, and French Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the Caribbean via support for resilience, sustainable energy, and marine biodiversity.

RESEMBID works to strengthen the protection and sustainable management of marine ecosystems, improve energy efficiency, and improve the resilience of the Caribbean OCTs and their adaptation to extreme and recurrent natural events. In concrete terms, RESEMBID provides implementation support for a portfolio of 45 projects. “These projects are truly useful to us in terms of food security and the transition to renewable energy,” says Ellis Webster, Prime Minister of Anguilla. “They have medium- to long-term impact and are in line with our administration’s political objectives of supporting the interest of the people of Anguilla.” 

See also: Caribbean regional cooperation strategy

Another regional project, “Green Overseas” (GO), works to boost the sustainable, inclusive and resilient development of the 25 European and British OCTs. The program targets three key areas: green energy, resilience to climate change (via coastal management, water resource management, and climate-resilient food systems) and access to climate finance. GO helps implement actions in each OCT through the “GO Facility” and carries out collective activities for all OCTs in the form of workshops, on-site visits, training, and studies.

In addition, the Euroclima program is the EU’s flagship cooperation program on environmental sustainability and climate change. Building on the success of its 13+ years of experience in Latin America, it was officially extended to the Caribbean Basin on May 10, 2023. Euroclima aims to combat biodiversity loss and promote a circular economy via integrated policies, legal frameworks, sectoral plans, and financial instruments. Second, it will mobilize public and private funding to develop, demonstrate, and expand the implementation of transformative approaches in these key areas to promote the green transition.

As part of the effort on both sides of the Atlantic to scale up efforts to reduce pollution, Euroclima will assist in the implementation of the Global Gateway investment program, which is the EU’s offer to bridge the infrastructure investment gap by mobilizing capital and private investment, particularly in renewable energy.  

The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of AFD and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.