Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Dumps divestment was proposed from back in 2000

Published:Tuesday | March 22, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Scrap metal gathered by informal solid waste sorters at a section of the Retirement Dump in St James.

The divestment of Jamaica's landfills is nothing new, it was on the table from as far back as 2000, when the National Solid Waste Management Policy was drafted by the Ministry of Local Government.

The policy, which also includes the proposal for the Establishment of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), noted that, "in the short term", disposal sites would be "operated by the NSWMA until they are divested.

The private sector, it said, would be encouraged to pursue business opportunities in solid waste collection and would be given the opportunity to bid for contracts to provide collection services for household and curb-side commercial solid waste. On the other hand, the NSWMA's focus would be to, "regulate the solid waste operations of collection, transportation and disposal of solid waste.

The document stated that vehicles, which were owned by the government, would be divested through a transparent bidding process to those interested in establishing themselves in the solid waste collection business.

"Vehicle maintenance costs are high and are a drain on the public purse. It is the intention of the Ministry of Local Government to divest all the solid waste collection vehicles to the private sector," the Ministry document stated. "There are currently 107 solid waste compactor trucks and 20 tipper trucks owned by the Government that are being utilised within the solid waste system. From time to time compactors are out of service for repairs. The percentage of compactors out of service varies from 20 to 40 per cent.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

The document further noted that, "there was a reduction in the number of landfills from 26 to 10", as some sites were no longer being used due to sanitation and environmental problems, including leaching of toxic and hazardous substances into ground and surface water bodies".

It also pointed to the transmission of infections to sorters and livestock that rummage through waste, which oftentimes includes medical and hazardous waste, uncontrolled burning as a result of spontaneous combustion from wastes with low flash points and/or the build-up of methane gas as other contributing factors.

The document also discusses the issue of a lack of sustainable sources of revenue for funding solid waste management operations outside of property taxes and government grants as well as personal responsibility in reducing waste generation.

"The operators of disposal facilities must earn enough revenue from the tipping fees to make it viable to operate the disposal facility," the document stated. "The 'polluter pays' principle is the basis on which the solid waste system will be operated so that the waste generator is always cognisant of the fact that there is a cost associated with collection transportation and disposal of solid waste. This should ultimately reduce the rate of generation of solid waste."