Columns

Stop wasting our energy

BY DR DAYTON CAMPBELL

Wednesday, July 09, 2014    

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FUTURE generations are counting on all of us to stop making excuses, to admit we have a problem and to proactively and aggressively work towards fixing it.

Regulatory bodies like the National Environment and Planning Agency, (NEPA), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), International Solid Waste Agency (ISWA), Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET) and other world organisations are also increasing our obligations to effectively manage waste and protect human and environmental health for generations to come.

Running into compliance problems is not only bad for our reputation, it can also impact business operations and goals. Yet the regulatory obligations pale in comparison to the expectations and demands raised by all other stakeholders. Employees, customers, students, faculty, donors, suppliers, investors and the media demand for environmental action is strong and only getting stronger.

Reduce, reuse, recycle has long been the mantra. Zero waste is the grand prize. All facets of the economy and all organisations — from industrial settings to educational institutions — require smart environmental management and systems in place to make it happen.

The disposal of solid waste has always represented a delicate and sometimes even controversial issue in developing countries. Reports, studies and articles tackling this aspect in Jamaica show us that this country is far from being an exception to the rule. In fact, the more research conducted on this topic the more serious and worrying of a situation one discovers.

The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) is the statutory body mandated to manage the collection, treatment and disposal of solid waste in Jamaica. NSWMA has demarcated the country into four regions, known as wastesheds.

A wasteshed represents all the areas in a region from which waste is collected and hauled to a common disposal site. Each wasteshed contains two or more parishes where disposal sites can be found. In Jamaica there are no sanitary landfills.

* Riverton Wasteshed: Claredon, St Catherine, Kingston, St Andrew, St Thomas;

* North Eastern Wasteshed: Portland, St Mary, St Ann;

* Retirement Wasteshed: Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland; and

* West Kirkvine Wasteshed: St Elizabeth and Manchester.

The population of Riverton Wasteshed is concentrated in a relatively compact metropolitan area, generating about 1Kg of waste per person per day, which is estimated to produce about 667 tonnes of waste per day. The current landfill at Riverton servicing the area is processing less than 50 per cent of the waste. Where is the remaining waste?

The NSWMA is collecting less than 50 per cent of the daily waste production when working at full capacity. As of December 31, 2011 this entity was functioning at less than 30 per cent of its capacity. That has caused the majority of the Metropolitan solid waste generated to either be burnt in piles on the streets or disposed of in illegal dump sites (especially empty lots, canals.)

Numerous bins overflowing and surrounded with waste are observed all over town, because the NSWMA is unable to collect them frequently enough. There is a dire need to solve the solid waste problem due to not only existing trash, but newly added trash that increase and compounds the problem and spreads diseases.

Recycling is not widespread in Jamaica, but there are several companies engaged in the collection and exportation of recyclable materials (paper, cardboard, plastic, glass bottles and metal). However, the total exports are below 0.05 per cent of the total waste volume of these materials.

Waste-to-Energy transformation is incentivised, but merely developed. There is an acute need for energy-from-waste capacities which include incineration of municipal solid waste, capture of landfill gas, production of bio-diesel and biogas.

It is time to stop wasting our energy and start turning our waste into energy. Agencies like IADB and World Bank will be more than happy to provide loans and, more excitingly, even grants to facilitate this process. An overhaul like this would also provide well-needed jobs and more critical, cleaner and safer environment.

Dr Dayton Campbell is Member of Parliament for St Ann North West.

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