Fri | Jul 21, 2017

William Mahfood | Let's get serious about recycling

Published:Wednesday | July 5, 2017 | 7:00 AM
William Mahfood
These bags represent a small percentage of the garbage collected during last year's International Coastal Cleanup Day, which is supported by Wisynco.
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I am responding, as I certainly feel is my duty, to Phillip Alexander's letter as published in the June 24 edition of this newspaper.

Let me first say that I personally share Mr Alexander's passionate concern for the environment that sustains us and this is one of the values that guides our team here at Wisynco.

To the specific concerns raised, I will begin with the environmental levy, which was first introduced by the Government of Jamaica in 2005 with a subsequent update on locally manufactured goods in 2015. Arising from this levy, billions of dollars flow to the Government through the purchase of all forms of finished goods and packaging. The aim of that levy is to provide funds to, among other things, ensure reliable waste collection and deal with issues such as drain blockage, etc.

Mr Alexander speaks near the end of his letter to the responsibility of Parliament in these matters. Between the lawmakers and the municipal corporations, there is certainly much to answer for and much work to be done. In the meantime, funds are already being collected. Let us all be more vigilant in seeking answers from our officials regarding the use of these funds.

 

Significant increase

 

I wish also to advise that Recycle Partners of Jamaica (a public-private partnership between the Government of Jamaica and local industry participants) is currently paying for the collection of plastic bottles and containers. The entity has seen a significant increase in volumes collected since it opened its doors in 2014. They have reportedly increased from 300,000 pounds collected in 2014 to approximately two million pounds in 2017, which equates to approximately 45 million bottles.

Recycling Partners of Jamaica has set up collection depots islandwide, a list of which can be found on our website, www.wisynco.com/recycling-partners-of-jamaica. We will be happy to see the levy being used as a contributor to the National Solid Waste Management Authority, or to Recycle Partners, or indeed to both, all under the monitoring of an oversight body similar to the Economic Performance Over-sight Committee that monitors economic performance in respect of the IMF agreement.

We have consistently supported recycling and waste management initiatives at the national and community levels, including the annual coastal clean-up and the ongoing 'Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica' campaign.

Wisynco has invested in excess of J$30 million over the past year in pursuit of recycling initiatives such as school competitions and awareness campaigns. Through our Eco Club programme, students and their surrounding communities were able to collect more than one million bottles. We aim to triple this number as we expand this programme for the upcoming school year.

 

Proper waste management

 

Programmes like our Eco Club and our internal initiatives aim at increasing awareness towards recycling, as well as teaching proper waste management practices. Not only must waste management be viewed as a means of disposing of waste, but through our WATA Sustainability programme, we encourage out-of-the-box thinking for participating schools to find sustainable solutions to problems they encounter.

Internationally, waste manag-ement is not merely a point of national pride (as in the Scandinavian nations) but a source of employment and income. Notwithstanding the issues that have affected it over the years, the recycling business is not far removed from the scrap metal industry currently operating in Jamaica. A few incremental changes in approach could reap massive benefits for us as a nation, directly and indirectly.

As a company guided by its commitment to the health of our environment, we wish to see further legislative improvements where recycling and waste management are concerned. This should include mandatory separation - even at the household level - of plastic waste from non-plastic, with appropriate penalties.

We also would like to see greater incentives from other private-sector companies for recycling on a whole to encourage the behavioural changes that we believe are necessary to have lasting solutions to this problem. I fully agree with Mr Alexander that it is up to each of us to decide what type of nation we want to live in - and want to pass on to the next generation. At Wisynco, we have done much, and stand ready to do more, in fulfilment of the vision for a better Jamaica.

- William Mahfood is chairman of Wisynco. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.