Sun | Mar 7, 2021

Earth Today | Hazardous waste policy headed to Cabinet

Published:Thursday | December 3, 2020 | 12:10 AM
Jamaica does not currently have the capacity to deal with all the types of hazardous waste generated.
Jamaica does not currently have the capacity to deal with all the types of hazardous waste generated.

THERE ARE efforts afoot to ensure the enhanced management of hazardous waste on the island, with the updated Green Paper on the subject anticipated for Cabinet submission this month.

Hazardous waste is considered as any substance which by reason of its chemical activity, toxicity, explosivity, corrosivity or other characteristics, causes, or is likely to cause, danger to health or the environment, whether of itself or on contact with other waste.

“We did public consultations across the island on the Green Paper. We have reviewed the draft and amended based on comments received, and are now finalising the document for Cabinet approval as a White Paper,” revealed Gillian Guthrie, acting chief technical director (CTD) in the Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change.

The document, she said, includes provisions for medical waste.

“Cabinet asked us to take the draft medical waste policy and incorporate it into the document. We have been working with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the National Environment and Planning Agency on that and are to send it to Cabinet in December for approval as a White Paper, which is a final policy,” Guthrie explained.

In addition to the medical sector, the principal hazardous waste-generating sectors include the household; power generators; the pharmaceutical industry; the petrochemical sector (used oil, coolant, etc); the agricultural sector (pesticides, etc); the electronic and electrical industry; the lead acid battery distribution sector; the chemical industry (paints, solvents, acids and alkalis, etc); as well as the bauxite/alumina sector.

The policy document, once approved, will be an important milestone, according to the acting CTD.


“That will be a very big deal because we have been working on it for many years now. In Jamaica, we talk a lot about solid waste, but we don’t really talk about hazardous waste, which is more dangerous to health and to the environment,” she said.

“The country does not have the capacity to deal with all the categories of hazardous waste we generate. This is, therefore, to provide the policy prescription for the management of this category of waste. This kind of waste really does have an impact on health – human health and environmental health,” she explained.

“Even a properly run landfill cannot deal with all categories of hazardous waste. And the more hazardous the waste, the more expensive it is to dispose of it,” Guthrie added.

It is against this background that the policy focuses on the effective management of the country’s natural resources to ensure the continued provision of essential environmental services, as well as on the design of environmental policies that “internalise the cost of pollution and environmental damage into the production costs of all economic activities”.

It also looks to improve information sharing, education and awareness raising at all levels of society to support and facilitate active participation in the decision-making process for the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste. Further, it aims to promote sustainable financing mechanisms for hazardous wastes management.