What a waste!
If you have been using East Avenue, Maxfield Avenue, and Waltham Park Road over the last two months or so, you would have noticed sets of green, blue and lavender bins at different points along the road.
They are intended for the separation of garbage — green for plastic bottles, lavender for organic material, and blue for everything else — but if you look closely, you’ll realise that they are not being used as directed. Those residents who do use them consider them as general garbage receptacles and pay no attention to the categories of waste they put in.
There are others, too, who continue to either dump on empty lots or in gullies, or burn their rubbish in their yard. We saw evidence first-hand while conducting interviews in the Gem Road area when a woman threw a large black garbage bag into the gully. We also visited dump sites in close proximity to the coloured bins.
“In the garrison yuh nah go find dem a separate. Ghetto people n’have nuh time fi dat,” a young man on Maxfield Avenue told us.
Across the street we watched as a woman threw a diaper soiled with faeces into one of the bins.
“Nobody nuh tell us what is to go where,” she said when we asked her which colour bin she used. “People been following the rules [putting garbage in bins instead of littering], but they don’t separate.”
As Alicia Dicks from Fitzgerald Avenue explained garbage collection trucks don’t routinely go onto the avenues that lead off the aforementioned thoroughfares, so as far as she is concerned, the bins provide a central collection point.
“It’s good ’cause usually people throw the rubbish on the ground and it look bad,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
An elderly woman, Lurline Galloway, was also pleased with the installation of the new bins, but she too was unaware of the meaning of the colour coding.
“Mi neva look pon dem. A wha day somebody tell me say fi look pon it and read it, but mi just put mi rubbish in deh,” she said.
The bins are among 2,281 distributed across 30 communities in Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, St Ann, St James, and Westmoreland. They were procured under the World Bank-funded Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP) at a cost of $13 million, and are a means of “improv(ing) solid waste management in these select underserved communities by providing communities with the necessary equipment to enable waste separation and further conversion of waste into income generation”, according to project implementers, Jamaica Social Investment Fund.
The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) and Recycling Partners of Jamaica are partner implementers with JSIF. But it seems their goals of enabling waste separation is some way off, as a trio of young men on Crescent Road told us.
“A nuh everybody can read fi know wha fi go inna what. Di greatest ting is dat dem still deh yah and nobody nuh tief dem out. Dem a use dem fi keep di place clean, “ said Marlon Simmonds.
His brother, Richard, who runs a cook shop in the area, reported that he was associated with the Rose Town Foundation, which charged him with installing nine bins in his area.
“It good for the community because they normally litter the open land, but nuh care how mi tell dem [about the different bins], dem nah hear. Dem just throw anything in any one,” he reported.
“We use dem, but wi nuh really watch di colour,” said Phillip Wright, whom we met at a shop in Greenwich Farm.
The shopkeeper said she doesn’t use the JSIF bins because they are too small for the quantities of garbage her establishment produces. And she wasn’t the only one.
“Dem nuh ready!” McMillan Stewartson exclaimed. “Look how dem likkle. How dat fi serve fi everybody rubbish? A burn mi burn mine or wait pon di truck. Nuff people haffi still have dem drum inna dem yaad ’cause dem three likkle bin yah nuh good enough.”
On the matter of separating the rubbish, Stewartson said he was never informed about that objective and said signs to that end should be displayed on the bins. When we told him there were signs, he said: “Listen, if yuh waan hide tings from people or yuh waan trick people, write it dung. Ninety-nine per cent a wi illiterate. Somebody shoulda come talk to wi ’bout it so wi know wha gwaan.”
For Trevor Murphy, the waste separation project is useful in theory, but is being mishandled. He called it “a typical example of Government at work” and maintained that his community was not consulted nor informed about the project or its objectives.
“Is afta dem put in dem plan dem tell yuh ’bout it. But I’m wondering how dem reach people gate? Nobody was consulted.
“The separation is not being practised. People are just putting things wherever they feel. Mark you, they have useful value, but you have to educate the people first; you can’t start from the back and work your way to the front. I’m not complaining about the collection. We have a pretty good system where that’s concerned. But this particular venture was not well planned,” Murphy said.
In response to the criticisms, environmental specialist at JSIF, Dr Milton Clarke, said he was not surprised that separation was not taking place at the level required, and conceded that “it will take a very long time for residents to buy into an initiative of this nature [because] people are accustomed to managing their waste in a certain way from birth, which becomes engrained, and therefore it will take significant effort and time, perhaps years, to effect the desirable change in knowledge, attitude, perception and behaviour with respect to solid waste management and environmental sustainability in general”.
He maintained, however, that JSIF and the NSWMA did engage community groups prior to installing the bins, through meetings — which he said only a few residents attended — the distribution of flyers, and the training of 165 environmental wardens. Dr Clarke noted that the team is in the process of developing a social marketing programme based on strategic recommendations from a recently conducted social marketing consultancy in several of the project communities.
With respect to the placement of the bins, the environmental specialist explained that effectiveness in at-source waste separation schemes depend heavily on close proximity to the source of waste generation, as well as a reliable waste collection system.
“The bins were not arbitrarily placed by JSIF or the NSWMA. A walk-through was conducted in each community with the CBOs (community-based organisations) and the sites selected. Bins were not placed in areas where persons objected. I am aware that some individuals would prefer not to have the bins close to their homes because of the fear that persons might place dead animals in the receptacles, as well as because of concerns with infrequent collection by the NSWMA,” he told the Observer via email yesterday.
“At this point, the NSWMA is having some challenges, which provide added motivation for residents to dispose of the waste in the bins with available space, even though they may be aware of the waste separation initiative,” Dr Clarke said.
Criticisms aside, Dr Clarke reported that the agency has had mostly positive feedback regarding the installation of the bins.
“Importantly, there are reports of improvements in the cleanliness of the communities because of the increased storage capacity provided by the bins. Waste which would have been otherwise disposed of inappropriately, for example, in the drains, along the streets and in gullies are now being placed in a suitable receptacle for collection by the NSWMA,” he said.
The project is said to be first of its kind in Jamaica in terms of structure and magnitude.