N Touch
Tuesday 22 October 2019
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Taking waste seriously

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

THE THEME of this year’s World Environment Day – which was observed yesterday – was taking action to beat air pollution. But in this country, we are yet to scratch the surface when it comes to tackling our solid waste, let alone our emissions.

According to an alarming Parliament committee report published recently, we are drowning in rubbish. This country produces 2,000 tonnes of waste each day. A 2010 Waste Characterisation and Centroid Study estimated 700,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated annually. Each TT citizen generates on average 1.5 kgs of waste a day, substantially more than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Despite the high level of waste per capita and the unsanitary and indiscriminate disposal of waste at the nation’s landfills, “national emphasis has been allocated to the final disposal of waste rather than strategies for waste minimisation and diversion.” In other words, we’re responding to the symptoms rather than addressing the cause.

The report was published by the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Finance and Legal Affairs. Why would a finance committee care about rubbish? Because the costs are simply too high. According to the committee, SWMCOL alone needs an extra $120 million per year to cover and compress the country’s three landfills properly. The committee calls for a new waste management coordinating agency, a new sanitary-engineered landfill at Forres Park, remediation of the Guanapo Landfill, and a composting facility to process organic waste which constitutes 27 per cent of solid waste and new laws for recyclable waste. The JSC said the Planning Ministry must create a strategy half the country’s waste. It also urged a 35 per cent reduction in the amount of persistent organic pollutants released from garbage.

Upcoming events such as the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Conference 2019, which will be hosted by the Energy Chamber at the Hilton Trinidad from June 10 to 11, present us with opportunities for cooperation between the State and the private sector on these matters. Amongst the speakers scheduled to address the two-day conference are Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte, Energy Minister Franklin Khan and BPTT regional president Claire Fitzpatrick. The theme of this year’s conference is, fittingly, Industry Collaboration for a Low Carbon Future.

The public and private sector must collaborate to find mutually beneficial ways to improve efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well as solid waste. Annually, the largest proportion of our waste is industrial (233,000 tonnes).

Yet undoubtedly it all starts with household behaviour. The results of the Port of Spain City Corporation’s recent pilot encouraging Woodbrook residents to sort their rubbish and to recycle plastics should be reviewed with a view to expanding that laudable initiative. We must change our habits and engender a culture that encourages business groups to take environmental issues seriously.

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