Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Rohan Brown | A recycling solution

Published:Sunday | August 7, 2016 | 8:00 AMRohan Brown

We continue to be burdened with the serious problem of having our environment poisoned by the containers we use and then discard. First, I need to declare that I am an interested party, a recycler (of plastics and paper) and a son of the soil. My interests are to build a viable and sustainable recycling industry and to live in a clean and healthy environment.

The facts are as follows:

- Our environment is suffering badly from these harmful materials.

- Our Government is unable to solely cover the cost to effectively collect these materials.

- The main objective of the private sector and the companies that distribute these materials is to make a profit, not to clean up the environment.

- Government has the main responsibility to maintain a clean and healthy environment by controlling the types of materials that are used or to establish a system to sustainably and responsibly dispose of these harmful materials.

- There are tried and proven systems in developed countries that have successfully addressed most of these challenges.

- Government has so far failed in its responsibility to implement a successful plan to protect the environment, while the private sector has succeeded (in the main) in its main objective of making profits.

 

IGNORING DATA

 

Mr Prime Minister, we have continued to ignore the many studies and recommendations that have proven successful elsewhere? The fact is, the powerful private-sector interests are not necessarily going to be the solution to the problems they have created.

Recently, world market prices for recycled plastics have plummeted in tandem with falling oil prices. This situation is not expected to reverse anytime soon. The current situation has rendered the recycling of plastics for export uneconomical for recyclers.

Last year, on average, we exported eight million bottles per month (less than 20 per cent of what is generated in Kingston). Currently, little or no export is taking place, as the costs to collect, process and ship exceeds the current world market prices. Just take a look at the drains and the dump now versus early last year. This island has a serious litter and contamination problem on its hands.

Mr Prime Minister, a sustainable and proven solution to this problem is bottle deposit legislation and a wider container deposit legislation for other recyclables. The basic principle of a bottle deposit bill is to shift the cost of using recyclables to the consumer in the form of a deposit. This deposit would be used to fund the costs of recovery and recycling.

1. Bottlers and distributors would collect this deposit and pay this over to a managed fund.

2. Consumers would pay the extra dollar amount as a deposit for each bottle purchased.

3. Consumers would be rebated a percentage of this deposit for bottles returned to licensed recovery and recycling facilities.

4. The deposit fund would be used to repay consumers for returns, recyclers for processing and exporting these bottles, and to fund other recycling projects.

 

OTHER BENEFITS

 

Mr Prime Minister, the core of this plan is its inherent sustainability, as the deposit dollar value is adjustable to create the funding necessary to cover the various costs to recover, recycle or dispose of these containers. Other benefits would include:

1. A cleaner environment.

2. A stimulus for self-employed economic activity.

3. Expansion of the recycling industry and the creation of jobs.

4. Lower operating costs for the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

Mr Prime Minister, don't expect that this plan will be fully supported by the major bottlers and distributors, as this plan, albeit a deposit, would impact the total price of products. In the long run, however, this plan will benefit the economy, the environment and businesses generally.

Jamaica Environment Trust has been advocating this plan for many years, and as a recycler, I am convinced that this is the best long-term solution.

Mr Prime Minister, as part of your portfolio responsibility, the matter of protecting the environment in a sustainable way should not be further delayed, while we continue to tweak by trial and error and ignore the obvious successes of this proven formula in other countries.

Mr Prime Minister, this urgent situation needs strong and decisive leadership. Accordingly, I seek an early audience with you on this important matter.

- Rohan Brown is managing director of Jamaica Recycles. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rbrown@jamaicarecycles.com.