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This is rubbish!

Published:Wednesday | April 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

Private garbage-disposal companies are enraged that despite a ruling last September by Jamaica's fair trade watchdog that the actions of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) were uncompetitive, the state-run agency has not ceased diverting taxpayer dollars to the collection of non-residential waste.

According to the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), the NSWMA has a market share of nearly 35 per cent of non-residential customers, based on data from March 2008. It said that the customer base of the state agency had grown by nearly 750 customers over the previous year.

"They continue to compete with us and are driving us out of the industry," one player, requesting anonymity, said, while adding that his company's bottom line has been affected by 15-30 per cent.

In the staff report addressing an investigation into the operations of the NSWMA, the FTC cited the entity for unfairly competing against private entities for the collection and disposal of non-residential waste.

However, Joan Gordon-Webley, executive director of the NSWMA, said yesterday, "At no time I was told we were blocked." She declined to speak further on the report, which she said was preliminary.

No cross-subsidies

The document stated that if the NSWMA wanted to offer that service, it must first set up a body that is not subsidised by the public purse.

"There should be no cross-subsidies from the publicly funded monopoly of residential solid waste to the commercial competitive unit, which is participating in the market for the haulage of non-residential waste and which is competing with the private-waste haulage enterprises," the FTC report stated.

The report also stated that the special unit should operate in the same manner as a private firm, which is exposed to administrative, financial and regulatory arrangements which are not supported by the Government.

Private garbage disposal companies had appealed to the FTC for protection in 2008, arguing that the action by the state was about to wipe them out.

"It was a joint action by all the competitors, because we realise that we were all going to die at the hands of the State if there was no intervention," a senior operations officer from a private plant told The Gleaner Monday.

Environmental problems

The FTC report went further, exploring the ramifications which could ensue from the marginalisation of garbage-disposal services for residential customers who have over the years endured bouts of highly irregular collection.

"(There was) no evidence that its conduct is excessively directed to promoting technical or economic progress, since its operation is not limited to unserved areas, which could pose serious health and environmental problems if solid-waste collection and disposal is not properly managed," the report concluded.

It continued: "Expansion of the NSWMA in the market for the haulage of non-residential waste was likely to negatively affect the quality of service with respect to the collection and transportation of residential waste, if there is continued opportunity for resources to be diverted from residential to non-residential services."

When The Gleaner contacted the FTC's offices by telephone Monday, there was no response. Requests sent by email were not addressed.

Last August, Gordon-Webley told The Gleaner it was in the interest of the country that the private entities remain in the multibillion-dollar business.

"There is lots of business out there for everybody. I want them to be in business. When they do a good job, we have less solid waste thrown over the streets," Gordon-Webley said.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com