Trash Free Waters Initiative in the Caribbean

EPA-UNEP CEP-Peace Corps Partnership on Marine Litter

Vision: To significantly reduce and prevent the amount of trash from entering waterways and leading to the Caribbean Sea.

Trash Free Waters Initiative is a partnership involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Peace Corps, United Nations Environment Programme – Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) to reduce and prevent land-based trash from entering our watersheds, coastal waters, and the marine environment.

The Trash Free Waters Initiative is driven by the central tenet to catalyze local communities and governments in the Caribbean region to work together to develop marine litter policies and projects that reduce the amount of trash entering the Caribbean Sea. Partners are working with Environment Ministries in two pilot countries (Jamaica and Panama) to help raise awareness of marine litter and prioritize sustainable solid waste management practices that will also benefit the economy.

News at a Glance


Launch of the Trash Free Waters


Site Visit- Recycling Partners of Jamaica (Following Stakeholder Workshop in Feb 2017)

Learn more about the launch of the Trash Free Litter Partnership in this pilot country



Learn more about the launch of the Trash Free Litter Partnership in this pilot country

Trash Free Partnership –Panama


Why is the Trash Free Waters Initiative essential for the Wider Caribbean Region?

Marine litter is a growing issue, as is seen on beaches, coasts, and marine ecosystems everywhere.  While a wide range of materials consist of marine litter, the majority is in the form of plastics, where they can persist in the marine environment for hundreds of years or even longer.

Over time, due to prolonged sun exposure and other physical and chemical elements, plastics deteriorate into numerous tiny fragments called microplastics, which can easily enter the food web, thus posing threats to marine life, coral reefs, coastal ecosystems, and human health.

The US Environmental Protection Agency works internationally in the Wider Caribbean Region through our obligations under the Land-Based Sources Protocol to the Cartagena Convention, which focuses on reducing land-based sources of marine pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

In the wider Caribbean Region, up to 80% of marine litter comes from land-based sources of solid waste and approximately 65% of that waste is disposed of in open dumps, inland waterways, coastal water bodies, or directly into the Caribbean Sea.

The EPA-UNEP-CEP-Peace Corps partnership works together with government agencies and communities in the region to help address solid waste management issues and reduce the amount of trash from entering Caribbean waters.


The Value of Partnership

EPA, Peace Corps and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Caribbean Environment Programme are working together to address marine litter through efforts to reduce the amount of trash flowing into the Caribbean Sea. This partnership supports Peace Corps Volunteers on the ground to take actions in their local communities to reduce land-based sources of trash and help national governments take action on preventing trash from reaching their waters.

Peace Corps Jamaica and Peace Corps Panama are aligning their ongoing solid waste management work implemented by Volunteers in rural communities with the Trash Free Waters approach which will ensure a connection between community-based work and the high visibility marine litter issue. 

As a regional body, UN Environment CEP continues to engage the national governments in the Wider Caribbean Region.  EPA also provides training on the TFW approach, develop new and adapt available tools for improved solid waste management.



How does the Trash Free Waters Initiative work?

The Trash Free Waters in the Caribbean Initiative builds upon EPA’s national TFW Initiative (TFW) which is a successful approach to helping address the US contribution to the marine litter problem. TFW uses a collaborative, stakeholder-based approach to prevent trash from entering the ocean.  There are three phases to TFW: Assessment, Dialogue and Planning, and Project Implementation.

The Initiative also facilitates dialogue among stakeholders to discuss latest research, ideas, and strategies to develop and expand their goals of reducing marine litter and trash, primarily at the source. The stakeholder identification process involved partnership with the national governments and UN Environment CEP in order to have them participate and be included at the launch meeting and subsequent dialogue and planning.

UN Environment CEP  uses  its role in the Caribbean through the Land-Based Sources Protocol to the Cartagena Convention to address marine litter reduction and prevention. As pilot countries, the initial focus is on Panama and Jamaica and Governments of both countries are assisted to pull together ongoing marine litter work to help unify the country’s solid waste management message. Trash Free Waters identifies what’s happening in Panama and Jamaica with respect to marine litter prevention and reduction and aligns those efforts to better deliver the appropriate message and take steps towards comprehensive solutions.

In support of the efforts made in the government through EPA and UN Environment CEP, the volunteers of United States Peace Corps are trained so that they can train and facilitate the implementation of small scale projects within their local communities.

The Trash Free Waters Initiative in the Caribbean is expected to:

  1. Work with Governments of Jamaica and UN Environment CEP to help identify stakeholders, which may include government agencies, NGO’s, private sector and industry.
  2. Convene introductory meetings or launch involving stakeholders in both countries to begin the dialogue, and help identify barriers and enhance trash prevention drivers.
  3. Leverage initial financial support for community-based projects in pilot countries.
  4. Share best practices in solid waste management and policy that have been shown to effectively prevent and reduce marine litter.

The Trash Free Waters Initiative began implementation in 2015 and is expected to end by December 2018.

The Trash Free Waters Initiative is co-implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and its Peace Corps, UN Environment’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and co-executed by pilot countries agencies, National Environment Planning Agency & the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente (ANAM).