Jennifer Edwards, the executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), as part of the waste-management strategy, is exhorting Jamaicans to recycle.
They should compost leftover, separate their waste and, as much as possible, reuse plastic containers and so on. Ms Edwards expects, it seems, to get this message across mainly by radio jingles and the use of community relations officers to 'educate' - that throw-at-any-and-everything word for which those hazy of ideas love to reach - Jamaicans of the merits of cleanliness.
We wish Ms Edwards well and hopes that her initiative succeeds. However, as the head of a waste management agency would know, the management of solid waste demands far more than exhortations via the press and/or radio and television adverts, no matter how creative these are. These have to be underpinned by proper management systems, including reliable arrangements for waste collection, which is not now the case.
changing living arrangements
Further, while we appreciate her point, Ms Edwards will perhaps have noticed that it is increasingly the case in urban Jamaica that apartments and town houses, rather than detached homes, are being developed. In the circumstance, space is limited for compost heaps. Neither are there the large lawns to be made lush with compost.
Additionally, the separation of garbage, such as recyclable plastics from biodegradable material, requires organised, systematic interventions by the solid waste management company.
Communities and households have to be told clearly how different kinds of garbage are to be packaged and stored and have bankable times for the collection of the different kinds of garbage. This should be underpinned by a system of reward or penalties - for either party - for adhering to, or failing to keep its side of the bargain.
But this approach to solid waste management demands that the NSWMA becomes what it was envisioned to be at its establishment - a modern solid waste management organisation. That presumes it would have operated modern landfills, with the requisite equipment and following environmental best practices.
Instead, the NSWMA has been an organisation that oversees old-style, anything-goes-everywhere garbage dumps, where combustion are frequent, sending smoky hazes over communities and causing respiratory illnesses.
Ms Edwards will no doubt claim that this is changing. But few people have seen from her, or Mr Noel Arscott, the local government minister to which her agency reports, a clean plan for the transformation of the NSWMA from an overseer of dumps to a manager of organised landfills.
Money, or the lack thereof, they will say, is an issue. We counter that ideas come first - including a commitment to change. In that regard, the management of solid waste can't be perceived as a feeding trough for corrupt political operatives.
When people are convinced that they are assured of a good, reliable solid waste management system, they are likely to willingly pay for priority service. Ms Edwards, therefore, must now back up exhortations with a clear strategy for transformation, with a timetable for achieving stated goals.
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