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It's about time we sort out garbage collection

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. - Native American Proverb


Have you ever felt abandoned? That is exactly how many residents in Zone 14 in the Corporate Area felt over the last three weeks as they waited patiently to have their garbage collected by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA).

The issues regarding the regular collection of garbage and solid waste management have been plaguing the society for a long time. Regrettably, despite the numerous attempts at finding solutions to this developmental issue, all such attempts have fallen short. The citizenry continues to be inconvenienced while the potential for a public health outbreak looms over the society.

The State has a primary responsibility to remove garbage and to do so regularly. Additionally, the disposal of solid waste must be done in a timely and environmentally friendly manner. Successive governments have not been able to effectively and efficiently manage this very critical sector. The issue clearly is one of resources. It appears from all indications that we do not have enough trucks to adequately cover the Corporate Area.

We clearly have not made the connection with sustainable development and having a clean city as well as a healthy population. In order to make our cities safe, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable, the society must ensure that we implement mechanisms to facilitate the safe, regular removal of garbage and disposal of solid waste.

Jamaica is a signatory to the September 25, 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. (SDG). The SDGs are a set of goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all as a way forward for an agenda on sustainable development to transform our world. The 17 SDGs have 169 associated targets with a 2030 deadline, by which time they should be implemented. SDG #11, target 11.6, clearly addresses garbage collection “by 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management”.

The society also needs a heightened sense of environmental consciousness in order to advance the effort of a clean nation. When garbage is not collected in a timely manner some residents are tempted to burn same. This then adds another level to the problem.

We cannot continue to destroy our environment. What about employing some environmental wardens? These individuals could act as liaisons between communities and agents of the State responsible for protecting the environment.

As we commemorate the 145th anniversary of Kingston being designated as the capital of Jamaica, I make this appeal to the NSWMA to add some sense of urgency to achieving regular collection of garbage; not for only for Zone 14, but for the wider Kingston Metropolitan Area.

In the powerful and timely words of Jimmy Carter, “Solid wastes are the discarded leftovers of our advanced consumer society. This growing mountain of garbage and trash represents not only an attitude of indifference toward valuable natural resources, but also a serious economic and public health problem.”

We need a national policy regarding garbage collection and solid waste disposal and the environment. Until we foster a culture in which we realise that it takes a collaborative effort involving civil society, the State, and citizens, we will continue to have problems. We have obviously dropped the ball; the time is now for us to take seriously our role and responsibility in protecting our environment.

#garbagecollection #environment #sustainabledevelopment #solidwaste #Kingston #publichealth #pollution #culture


Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Send comments to the Observer or or @WayneCamo