Q&A: Building Resilience through Waste Diversion and Reduction

Jua Kali founder Laurah John. Jua Kali is a social enterprise
tackling waste management and helping to reduce reliance on St.
Lucia’s only landfill. Courtesy: Laurah John

By Alison Kentish
CASTRIES, Apr 12 2019 (IPS)

Jua Kali is a social enterprise tackling waste management and
helping to reduce reliance on St. Lucia’s only landfill, which
will reach the end of its lifespan in 2023. The company, with its
slogan ‘Trashing the Idea of Waste,’ hosts waste collection
drives through pop up depots that encourage residents to bring
in glass, plastic and tin cans in exchange for supermarket
shopping points.
This is happening as St. Lucia, like other small island states,
faces climate resilience issues with freshwater quality and
deterioration in marine and coastal ecosystems.
Jua Kali is the brainchild of Laurah John. She talks to IPS about
why she established Jua Kali and the challenges that she has faced
on the project.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Tell me about your
background.

Laurah John (LJ): I am a purpose driven, creative rebel and
sustainability change agent or at the very least I try to embody
those traits through my work with Jua Kali Ltd. – a
profit-for-purpose, social enterprise that seeks to provide
innovative and sustainable resource recovery solutions to address
waste management issues in Small Island Developing States through
strategic partnerships.

Before Jua Kali, I was a Social Development
Practitioner/Short-term Consultant for the World Bank and Caribbean
Local Economic Development project. I was also employed with the
Ministry of Social Transformation.

IPS: What led you to establish Jua Kali
Ltd.?

LJ: In 2012, I completed a Master’s in Urban Studies from the
Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. My master’s
thesis, “Wasted Lives: Determining the Feasibility of
Establishing a Test Case Resource Recovery Programme in the Urban
Poor Community of Faux-a-Chaud, Saint Lucia” sought to explore
Resource Recovery as a tool for alleviating urban poverty,
enhancing environmental sustainability and bettering communities.
This research formed the basis of a business idea that led me and
an eight person team to win the 8th [United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organisation
] UNESCO Youth Forum Startup Weekend in
2013 and led to the creation of Jua Kali Ltd.  in August
2014.

IPS: Tell me about your slogan, ‘Trashing the Idea of
Waste’.

LJ: We acknowledge waste as a design flaw in how we built our
societies and do not see it as acceptable. We are challenging the
public to re-think the concept of waste and question consumption
patterns and how that contributes to the problem. We are
empowering consumers to recognise that they have the
right to leverage (their dollar) and demand that producers
create better quality products that address the end-of-life reality
of their goods.
Producers take limited resources to create goods that are bought
then thrown out. If we no longer believe that waste is acceptable,
it means that this product, once utilised, needs to feed into some
other process for continuity – closing the loop!

IPS: How do you host collection drives and are you
satisfied with public reception?

LJ: The collection drives are based on the Pop Up shop concept
– hence the name Pop Up depots – where we set up shop with our
tents, tables, chairs and army of volunteers, to create an area
where the public may drop-off used household materials like plastic
bottles and containers, glass jars and bottles, as well as cans and
tins. In return, they receive points on their Massy Stores Loyalty
Card. We set up twice a month.

We are very satisfied with the public’s reception! From our
very first day back with the depots (Mar. 2, 2019), many people
came up to us to say how happy they were that the depots had
resumed, what a great initiative it is, and that they hoped it was
coming back for good – encouraging words that reinforced that
we are on the right path.

IPS: What are some of the challenges you face in this
project?

LJ: Raising awareness is our biggest challenge. Airtime is
expensive and although we have some sponsorship in this regard,
much more is required to have a consistent presence to remind the
public of the depots. Additionally, where people receive their
information changes depending on what part of the island they
reside. This requires a communications strategy that is both robust
and multidimensional, pulling on a variety of platforms to target
different audiences.

IPS: Where do you see Jua Kali in 5 years?

LJ: As a regional leader in socio-environmental stewardship.

IPS: Why is waste diversion and reduction so crucial
to the climate change and environmental discussion?

LJ: To appreciate the importance of waste diversion and
reduction activities and their contribution to the climate change
and environmental discussion, we must first understand the severity
of their impact. Typical disposal and treatment of waste in a
landfill can produce emissions of several greenhouse gases
(GHGs), most significantly methane, which contributes to global
climate change. Other forms of waste disposal also produce
GHGs though mainly in the form of carbon dioxide.

Additionally, improper waste disposal can create or exacerbate
disasters, for example, by clogging waterways leading to flash
flooding and creating hazardous public health conditions by
contaminating water sources, creating breeding grounds for disease
borne vectors such as mosquitoes. Furthermore, on a small island
like Saint Lucia with a limited landmass, sending our trash to a
landfill takes up valuable productive land. There has to be a
better way!

IPS: Do you think the Caribbean is giving sustainable
waste diversion and reduction due attention?

LJ: More and more, Caribbean countries are giving attention to
the waste issue, primarily because of how visible it has become
with the increased use of plastics, the international campaign
against plastic pollution and the detrimental impact this can have
on tourism based economies. There is also a growing awareness and
research to highlight the negative impact of waste on water quality
and fisheries. As such, this is driving action towards supporting
initiatives like ours. Could it use more attention? Definitely, but
we are making headway.

I would like to encourage the public to believe that small,
individual actions to reduce or divert waste together will make a
difference! #bethechange

The post
Q&A: Building Resilience through Waste Diversion and
Reduction
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Q&A: Building Resilience through Waste Diversion and Reduction