How are we to achieve behaviour change?
Garbage pile-up on Waltham Park Road in St Andrew. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

We suspect that the ugly, smelly piles of garbage everywhere are causing sleepless nights for leaders of the garbage collection and disposal agency, National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA).

Without doubt it came as great relief for Executive Director Mr Audley Gordon to be able to announce that 50 new garbage trucks are to arrive by year-end to augment his agency’s ageing fleet, which is constantly afflicted by mechanical breakdowns.

Mr Gordon has made it very clear down the years that the existing fleet is incapable of dealing with the growing demand for garbage collection and disposal.

We also know that, while 50 trucks will make a significant difference, it really won’t be enough.

In September last year Mr Gordon reminded journalists that Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke had announced approval for the importation of 100 garbage trucks two years earlier. Then came the novel coronavirus pandemic and related costs in early 2020.

As explained by Mr Gordon back then: “COVID hit and, understandably, it [garbage truck allocation] was deferred. But what was not deferred was the need for the 100 trucks... In fact, we have a greater need now than when that was announced. So, we are behind the eight ball...”

Even as they prepare for the relief to be provided by 50 new trucks, we expect that Mr Gordon and fellow executives, supported by the business-oriented chairman of the NSWMA board Mr Dennis Chung, and his colleague directors will be proactively pushing for more allocations in a timely manner.

How many more trucks imported annually over a five-year period will facilitate a satisfactory level of efficiency? Such information, we expect, will be thoroughly thought through and brought in convincing fashion to a cash-strapped Government, which is under constant pressure trying to meet competing demands.

Trucks and the NSWMA’s efficiency apart, we note Mr Gordon’s understandable frustration with litterbugs who are making the agency’s work more difficult, “duttying up the place”, throwing garbage any and everywhere without thought for their environment or other people.

Mr Gordon wants people to report those who litter and illegally dump garbage. He wants more surveillance cameras so offenders can be identified and penalised with higher fines, so they can be hurt in their pockets.

Crucially, he wants “changed behaviour” among Jamaicans in treating with their physical environment. Behaviour change is the very thing that is being called for at all levels to deal with violent crime, antisocial actions, reckless driving, and other ills — all of which are connected.

How is that change to happen?

We have argued in this space that such change won’t come overnight and will require comprehensive mobilisation and education at the community level, involving all hands on deck, including community leaders, teachers, preachers, politicians of all stripes, Government and its agencies, business leaders at every level, trade unionists, civil society, et al.

We recognise that some will consider our suggestion unrealistic, even silly.

But how is behaviour change which will make our country a safer, cleaner, more comfortable, and a prosperous place to be achieved? It’s time Jamaicans start discussing the how.

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