Viewpoint from President of Chamber, Mr. Clinton Urling
Guyana needs a holistically integrated management plan addressing the solid waste problem across the country by focusing on a three-step process that starts from waste generation and storage, moves to safe collection, and culminates in environmentally responsible final disposal.
While short term, fragmented approaches can be welcomed, we will not get anywhere in the longer term if we do not take into consideration all three components in achieving an effective solid waste management system.
At the operational levels of waste generation and storage there are many initiatives that could be pursued. These include awareness programmes emphasizing the importance of reducing waste and using environmentally responsible storage methods; the sorting or source segregation of waste, initiatives encouraging household composting, and the provision of large public waste receptacles.
At the collections stage, initiatives can encompass timed and increased collections of solid waste; use of appropriate collection equipment; outsourcing to private enterprises; the provision of an incentive- or market-based schemes for collectors of recyclable materials (that is, such collectors could be formally organized under umbrella organisations or categories). At a more creative level, upgraded judicial rules could allow for community service sentences and collaboration with the reform prison system to carry out garbage collection with working prisoners who have been classified as low security risks.
At the point of final disposal, the country needs a technologically updated recycling plant; proper landfill and dumpsite management sites across the country; tipping fees to ensure sustainability of landfills, and landfill composting facilities. It is widely acknowledged that finished compost has a marketable value and can be sold to enrich our soils, improve vegetation and reduce the need for fertilizers.
However, for this three-step process to work, it must rest on a foundation where appropriate laws are adopted upon the principle of zero tolerance for irresponsible solid waste disposal. Likewise, efforts must engage participation of citizens and residents through community programmes and awareness campaigns involving schools, NGOs, citizens’ groups, municipal authorities, local businesses, and other entities. Other essential considerations should encompass adequate, stable funding for relevant institutions as well as financial oversight, transparency and accountability in the procurement and budgetary allocation process. More critically, the plan should promote the use of appropriate technology, such as biomethanation for organic wastes and composting equipment. At the most significant level, the plan should be coordinated through a central coordinating agency (for example, at the ministry level of local government or other governing unit) that involves the broadest spectrum of stakeholders representing, among others, municipal departments, private enterprises, waste collectors, NGOs, and residential groups. A central policy clearinghouse will help avoid the potential problems of disintegrated approaches, duplicated efforts, waste of resources, or an unwieldy solid waste management programme.
Finally, local government reform and regularly held elections also are critical components, as they ensure accountability from municipal authorities and gives the people of Guyana their duly merited say in how and who should manage the day-to-day affairs relevant to their geographic constituency. Indeed, the proper, responsible management of solid waste disposal is a hallmark of an effectively functioning government and society.