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Earth Today | Public consultations coming for hazardous waste management policy

Published:Thursday | March 21, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Government has imposed a ban on single-use plastic bags in Jamaica, seen here among other plastics that are a significant source of pollution on the island.

JAMAICA IS moving to put in place a policy that will help to create the necessary enabling environment for the proper management of hazardous waste.

The move comes at a time when hazardous waste-generating sectors abound, from bauxite and alumina, to, among others, the lead acid battery distribution sector, the chemical industry, as well as the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

“Hazardous waste is not a category of waste generally spoken about by the public. We have to further sensitise the public, given the potential risk to human health, as well as the health of the environment, to this category of waste,” noted Gillian Guthrie, senior director for the Environment and Risk Management Branch of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC).

Counted among hazardous waste are items that are flammable, toxic, corrosive, and reactive. They also include medical waste, such as needles, swabs and expired pharmaceutical items or products from hospitals, clinics, mortuaries, pharmacies, and laboratories that do diagnostic analysis.

The MEGJC received approval for the draft policy as a Green Paper in 2018 and was tabled in Parliament. The ministry has now started the stakeholder and public consultation on the document.

In February, public-sector consultations on the draft text were done and was followed, earlier this month, by private-sector consultations.

“The ministry might be doing a second consultation with the private sector on the draft text to capture those stakeholders who were not able to come to this consultation (on March 5). In the 2019-20 financial year, we will begin the public consultations,” Guthrie said.

The policy has as its stated goal “the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes in Jamaica, in keeping with international and regional best practices, to ensure the protection of human health and the environment”.

Among its specific objectives are to institute effective hazardous waste management frameworks at the national and local levels, with its guiding principles, including the principle of source reduction and the integrated life cycle principle.

Initial iteration

The source reduction principle, as reflected in an initial iteration of the document dated December 2017, speaks to minimising waste “in terms of its quantity and its potential to cause pollution”, through, for example, appropriate plant and process designs.

On the integrated life cycle approach, the document notes that “substances and products should be designed and managed such that minimum environmental impact is caused during their generation, use, recovery, and disposal”.

News of the hazardous waste management policy comes even as Jamaica cracks down on plastics and, in particular, single-use plastic products.

The island’s ban on single-use plastic bags and packaging made wholly or in part of expanded polystyrene foam, or drinking straws made wholly or in part of polyethylene or polypropylene, manufactured for single use, became effective on January 1 this year.

It is now illegal for any person “to manufacture or use any single-use plastic in commercial quantities”, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (Plastic Packaging Materials Prohibition) Order 2018, while “no person shall import or distribute any single-use plastic in commercial quantities”, according to the Trade (Plastic Packaging Materials Prohibition) Order 2018.

To disobey either order is to risk having to face conviction and a fine not exceeding $50,000 or imprisonment of up to two years, as per the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Order, and a fine of up to $2 million or up to two years behind bars as per the Trade Order.