Darwin to Fund Island-Wide Recycling and Plastic Reduction Project

Emmy Aston and Andrew Meyers of Scuba Montserrat Dive Shop have received a Darwin Grant to launch an island-wide recycling programme. (Island of Montserrat Photo)

An island-wide recycling and plastic reduction project has received a 2018 Darwin Plus Grant.

The project was written by Andrew Myers and Emmy Aston of Scuba Montserrat Dive Show, two entrepreneurs who have been operating a water sports business while volunteering on numerous eco-friendly initiatives.

The couple said that Montserrat’s stunning beauty continues to be marred by trash on the beaches despite regular clean ups. “Over the last 12 years while running our dive shop, we have often picked up plastics and bottles as we swim around Montserrat’s wonderful reefs or play on our beaches. It happens easily, and often not intentionally, but trash still ends up in places that should be, and can easily be, pristine,” Myers said.

We used to focus on doing organised clean ups but the true way forward is to prevent the problem before it starts – stop using so many plastics and recycling what we can. So we started meeting with the local government last year to move forward with solutions.”

He added that the response was overwhelmingly supportive from the Government of Montserrat, especially the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, as well as the Montserrat Governor’s Office. A collaborative project was developed with the government and Scuba Montserrat Dive Shop applied for grant funding to make it happen. 

Astonishingly, Montserrat imports over 1,000,000 glass bottles a year. The project will address two important waste items – glass and plastics.  “When it comes to plastics, there are hundreds of thousands of plastic bags used annually, not to mention literally tons of single use plastic cups, straws, cutlery, and containers. That’s a lot of trash for our little island with a small population.”

A non-profit organisation called Island Solutions has been formed to manage and execute the project. In the coming months, residents and visitors will be able to see the launch of several initiatives. These include:

  • Multiple marked places around island for all types of glass bottles and jars to be dropped off before being processed on-island. 
  • Dedicated glass recycling bins at many restaurants, bars and events.
  • Eco-friendly cups, straws, cutlery and containers at many of the restaurants as well as being easily and affordably available to all.
  • Free reusable shopping bag promotions so that every household in Montserrat will have them.

Meyers who is a certified SCUBA instructor and the project writer, said that before the end of the year residents “will start to see great changes for our beautiful Emerald Isle including less bottles and broken glass on the roadside, less plastic single use items being given out, and beaches with even less trash. Together with our government, local businesses and our community our beautiful island will become greener and as a result cleaner. It will be an even more beautiful and a safer place to live.”

While they acknowledge that change won’t happen overnight, Meyers and Aston are committed to seeing the project through to completion in the hopes that together everyone can make the island cleaner. 

Other projects completed by the environmentalists include the Montserrat Reef Project in 2012, which aimed to strengthen the marine ecosystem.

The Darwin Initiative has funded 1,068 projects to date in 159 countries and has awarded £140m in grants from the UK Government since 1992.