Our Ongoing Waste Crisis
On 12th April 2021, before a Joint Select Committee, Mr. Ronald Milford, Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) Chairman stated that 95% (700,000 tons) of our country’s waste is dumped annually into landfills.
Whilst Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) acknowledge the Chairman’s concerns, SWMCOL has failed in its 40-year existence to develop an adequate garbage sorting and collection program. Sorting garbage is common practice in developed nations. FFOS endorse the call for increased litter fines and have for decades appealed for recycling legislation.
Furthermore, Mr. Milford failed to disclose what percentage of the 700,000 tonnes of waste is plastic. Despite programs such as the now defunct Plastikeep and ICARE, plastic continues to pollute our waterways, roadways and rivers. For 20 years, the Beverage Containers Bill has languished on Parliament’s shelves. This cutting edge environmental management is designed to kick start a recycling sector. If passed it would lift the cost of the burden of pollution from the taxpayer and place a minuscule expenditure on the corporate sector while spurning a whole new industry of waste collectors. This Bill has been on successive legislative agendas without being laid in Parliament. Why? Who benefits?
In 2019, former Public Utilities Minister, Conrad Le Hunte stated the Bill was “98% complete” and “would be tabled in Parliament in a few weeks.” FFOS is concerned that PM Rowley is failing the environment. A beverage container recycling fee is a proven way to minimize the burden of plastic waste management. As the entity responsible for waste management, shouldn’t the passage of this Bill be SWMCOL’s top priority?
In addition, FFOS is concerned that we generate between 800,000 to 1,000,000 waste automotive tyres per year. Whilst SWMCOL have committed to repurpose 30,000 tyres for the construction of coastal retaining walls, this is a drop in the ocean of waste tyres that we produce annually.
In 2018 an environmental tax of TT$20 per imported tyre was implemented to cover the cost of proper disposal of used tyres. What has happened to monies collected from this Tax? Have our Government used this tax for its intended purpose? Should we continue to burn tyres at the landfills?
Lastly there was no mention of the promise to close existing landfills which are improperly sited and filled to capacity. For over 20 years FFOS have raised alarms about the improper and dangerous location of all of our dumps and Government’s reckless failure to address their wanton toxicity and leachate discharge into our environment. Daily, Beetham smoke stifles and suffocates citizens who reside or work downwind and has become the toxic lung of our capital city with leachate oozing from this unlined site adding to the ‘cocktail of carcinogens’ in our Gulf of Paria marine food basket.
Unless our Parliamentarians act, waste collectors will continue to suffer the loss of a viable self-sustaining recycling economy and public health will be compromised in an ever-growing Gulf of carcinogens.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea