Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Andre Wright | William Mahfood is talking garbage

Published:Sunday | July 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM

And I hope the odour will jolt the nostrils of legislators, policymakers, business operators and householders to do something about it.

In a pointed guest column titled 'Let's get serious about recycling' (July 5, 2017), Mahfood argues that the Government should pursue penalties for individuals or companies that do not separate waste, say, plastic from non-plastic, and even organic, for garbage collection. If anything, he does not go far enough.

Jamaica's waste-management structure stinks to high heaven because it hasn't evolved from its archaic blueprint. Truck crews still open residents' gates and wheel out barrels of garbage, before wheeling them back in. Collectors are still forced to travel with shovels to scrape up heaps of rubbish, a mishmash of grass and tree cuttings, cardboard, bags and bottles, wrecked appliances and every piece of rusty metal householders can find.

No wonder garbage trucks rarely complete their schedules on time. For if they are babysitting nasty 'naygas' like the ones who create Everest-scale heaps on the sidewalk along Waltham Park Road between Campbell Boulevard and Bay Farm Road, they're bound to take forever to reach some communities if they're busy shovelling up mess left by unconscionable householders. And don't get me started on the Lyndhurst Road entrance to Arnett Gardens, which often has a mini dump right under the 'Welcome to Trench Town' sign.

Audley Gordon, the executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), has a grand opportunity not only to transform the Riverton City disposal site from a dump into a modern landfill, but to get the entire country to rethink garbage from the moment every consumer empties a can, bottle, box or bag.

 

SINGLE-USER-OPERATED TRUCKS

 

First up, Gordon should launch a pilot project of single-user-operated trucks to collect refuse in specific zones. It makes no sense for crews of three to four men to be doing the rounds in well-organised and accessible suburban communities. Residents would be mandated to put out NSWMA-issued covered bins that would be picked up by single-user-operated trucks fitted with a retractable mechanical arm.

Through a rigorous public education programme, householders should be encouraged to separate waste in colour-coded bags to make the process of waste management at Riverton, St Martin's, Retirement or wherever else more efficient than it currently is. The rub is that the NSWMA would have to pharisaically observe its schedules.

And after encouragement comes enforcement.

If your garbage bin is not put in the specified collection area on the sidewalk, it just won't be picked up. If you leave your bin on the road for days after collection, you'll be ticketed and fined. If garbage wardens doing routine inspections find that you don't separate your waste, you'll be ticketed and fined. If you litter the sidewalk with tree cuttings or leave a massive tree trunk there like the one that's been on Padmore Avenue for weeks, if not months, ... . You get the idea.

Jamaica can't waste any more time talking about waste. Something as simple as garbage collection and recycling are profound indices of the civilisation of a people.

Everyone who leaves Jamaica to visit Canada, Scandinavia and other environmentally conscious regions return gobsmacked at how clean the streets are and how much organisation goes into garbage.

Infrastructure and environment have an overwhelming influence on social behaviour, but our governments over the years have seemingly not recognised the linkage. A man, woman, boy, or girl whose squalid circumstances are exacerbated by insufficient and untimely garbage collection, and with sewage flowing from the street into their yards, is perhaps less likely to be civil, socially well adjusted, and nationalistic. If you believe otherwise, that's garbage.

The Government should flood the inner cities with hundreds of garbage receptacles - drums, not the godawful skips that present eyesores and compatibility challenges to some collection trucks. Deploy social workers to engage residents in behaviour-modification programmes. And drill the message into the children, who may be the best motivational messengers.

Some of the slush money that's ploughed into vote-catching projects like the PNP's JEEP and the JLP's bush bonanza could be siphoned into 'Clean Community' incentive programmes for ghettos and gullyside neighbourhoods.

Matthew Samuda's battle for biodegradable styrofoam is commendable, but Jamaicans must change their nasty ways. It makes no sense having drains and gullies blocked with fancy-pants, high-tech styrofoam containers.

- Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.