Amid the stagnation and depression faced by residents of Richmond in St Mary, 28-year-old Travis Hunter found a lifeline in the art of using plastic bottles and other recyclable items to make furniture and many other intriguing creations.
Hunter, who opened a business called Recycling JA, prides himself on not only beautifying people’s living spaces while making money, but also helping to remove potentially halmful plastic waste from the environment. According to him, a system is urgently needed to promote his craft among young people to give them a creative way out of poverty and depression.
“I am an artist, recycling engineer, and sculptor. All the young people out there, all I can say is push towards what you want and don’t give up, no matter the obstacles you might face. You have to get out there and make it work. Things are not always easy and laid out as you want them. You have to motivate yourself and be creative.”
“This business is profitable. This is what I do for a living. The products I make are candle holders, flower pots, garden sculptures, patio sets, outdoor furniture, and if you want something custom-made, I can do it. I bind the plastic bottles together and then use concrete. I have already started to make a trend in cleaning up the environment. To make a patio set I use about 1,600 plastic bottles. If you put 10 of those together you can see how much plastic bottles I saved from going in the gutter, gullies, and drains. I want everybody to get on board and start recycling because recycling is a good way to clean up the environment and reduce pollution,” he urged.
Armed with knowledge on how significantly his craft can impact the economic situation in Richmond, Hunter bemoaned that the young people in the community haven’t shown much interest in learning his skills and expressed hope that, that position will soon change.
“People are not really interested in learning how to do it. Some of them come around for different reasons. You give them what they want and they leave. This activity can be a country-wide thing. A lot of plastic bottles are on the street so the Government can do something for the youth to be a part of. Plastic bottles have many purposes. You can even build houses with them. These products last for years, depending on how you use them.”
A sculpture created by Hunter could cost $130,000, while figurines, depending on the type, can cost between $13,600 and $14,800.
While he spoke to the Jamaica Observer, Hunter was in the process of twining wires around plastic bottles to hold them together. He later explained that he was creating playground equipment. He took the Sunday Observer to the side of his house to show off what looked like decorative blocks, which lined the edge of the roof. Hunter revealed that he used plastic bottles to make them.
“Plastic bottles have been popular in Asia and Africa. Plastic bottle construction has been around for decades. I use them to make water fountains; garden products, like flower pots; patio sets; and outdoor furniture. I also use other recycled materials to create some of the artwork. Basically, I get the form you want first with bottles and then add the concrete material to it. After I add the concrete material to it, I give it a painted finish.”
While the future seems bright for Hunter and his business, other people in Richmond had a contrastingly depressing story to tell.
As she sat on her verandah, chatting with a friend, a woman who gave her name as Sharon, was adamant that “nothing naa gwaan dung yah”, referring to Richmond. According to Sharon, who was perturbed by the thought that when her son, who is now 12-years-old, becomes 15, she will be seeking opportunities for him outside of St Mary due to the limited offerings in the parish.
“The community stay bad. There is no development. When the children leave high school dem affi a work pon van or go inna bar go work. The community lack a lot of things. Even the community centre closed down. The young people dem want a little career, even some training or some programmes over the community centre. The community is stagnant. Look at the state of the community, nuff pop dung board buildings. It rough down here.”
“My 12 year-old, mi a try get him out here because I don’t want him to catch the fever of the place. It takes a good mother or a good father to raise a child in this community. It is so depressing. The children are living in a depressed community. Everything is depreciating. When it is time to vote they come around and trick the youths and give them rum. Down here is in trouble.”
Addressing the lack of development in Richmond, Sharon’s friend Kim was of the opinion that the community has been left for doom.
“A just bar mi see yah suh. Other than that we have one little supermarket and a gas station, but that can’t work. Not even a little pharmacy nuh down here. We need development. If you have a little surgery or something serious to do, oh good God man, by the time you take to travel on the bad road, you probably dead.”