As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and it’s a thought come true for approximately 25 members of the Whitehouse and Bluefields communities who participated in an Upcycling Workshop at the Whitehouse Community Centre last week Friday.

Upcycling is the process of creative reuse, transforming waste materials or useless, unwanted products into new materials or products that have a higher value not only monetarily but also for the environment.

The programme was initiated by the Sandals Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and is part of the Whitehouse and Bluefields Solid Waste Reduction Project. This project, which has been taking place over the last 14 months, has introduced waste separation, plastic bottle recycling, community composting, and lessons in schools to engage the youth in these activities at an early stage.

Nickeisha Robinson, a resident from the Bluefields community shows us one of her pieces; a multi-colored bracelet made from discarded paper.

The workshop entailed two sessions. In the first session, attendees were taught how to use a variety of waste materials including wine corks, paper, and lionfish fins to make jewelry. In the second session, they were taught how to make durable garbage bins using primarily plastic bottles.

According to Sandals Foundation Environmental Manager, Bianca Young, the aim of this workshop is to encourage and introduce upcycling as a method to empower community members to participate in the waste reduction and separation project as well as to create an incentive to drive and expand the initiative.

“This session is an important part of the Whitehouse/Bluefield Solid Waste Reduction Project because of the impact it can have in creating a sense of community when it comes to Solid Waste Management, said Young, and there is potential for persons to make a livelihood through upcycling.”

Sandals Foundation Environmental Manager, Bianca Young (2nd left) looks on as Community member, Christopher Thomas (right) and members of the United Nations Environmental Programme, Tito Cover (left) and Georgina Singh create jewelry pieces from upcycled material.

One of the facilitators for the sessions, Robert Toby Grant, CEO for Jamaica Artistic Movement for Youth and Humanity (Jamyah) International was particularly intrigued by the lionfish fin earrings that some participants made.

The lionfish remains a growing problem in our marine environment, so to see where we can eat it and then afterward use the wasted parts of it to make earrings, bracelets, etc is very good.” he said.

Whitehouse is a fishing community and we want to preserve that. We want the young people to actually venture out into things like these where they have the beauty and bounty of the environment and at the same time can actually make a living from it.”

(L-r), Environmental Artist and CEO of Jamyah International, Toby Grant; Community Relations Officer of WPM Waste Management, Sharnon Williams, Bianca Young from the Sandals Foundation and UNEP’s Christopher Corbin showcase some of the jewelry made during an upcycling session organized by the Sandals Foundation and UNEP as part of the Whitehouse/Bluefields Solid Waste Management Programme.

For Christopher, a resident of St. Elizabeth who attended the Jewelry making session, the initiative was really interesting. “It’s nice to see that we could make everything from scratch and everything here you can basically find at home so it’s really interesting.”

Another resident, Nickeisha Robinson from Bluefields said the session was excellent. “I plan on carrying my pieces back to my community and sharing what I’ve learned with my community members and guests. And my children are going to enjoy this as well,” she said.

Robinson and a number of other attendees particularly enjoyed making the plastic bottle bins and jewelry items from waste paper, which is readily available throughout their communities.

(L-r) Representatives from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP); (l-r) Christopher Corbin, Eunice Semeleer, Tito Cover and Georgina Singh join community members Christopher Thomas and Julie Cole in making upcycled jewelry during an upcycling session at the Whitehouse Community Center.
A multi-colored bracelet made from discarded paper seen in someone’s work area.
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