Georgetown, our capital city, has issues with solid waste management in both our attitudes towards its production and our capacity for its reduction. Our government’s draft strategy, ‘Putting Waste In Its Place: A National Integrated Solid Waste Manage-ment Strategy for the Cooperative Republic of Guyana 2017-2030’, is comprehensive, and underlines our transition to a green economy and the need for a holistic approach to solid waste management.
I endorse the strategy as timely and a huge step in the right direction with its clear vision of “Informed communities participating in a nation-wide, integrated and financially self-sustaining waste management and resource recovery system that preserves health and the environment, realizes maximum value from resources, and minimises long-term costs to households, industry, and government.”
When someone tosses a bottle from a bus, or a food container from a car, or a fruit skin in a nearby drain, or whether it’s as simple as throwing a chewing gum wrapper on the pavement, it tells us about the frame of mind of those committing such infractions. They believe that taking care of their own solid waste is someone else’s responsibility. This must change.
At the municipal level there has been the recognition as well as per the Georgetown Municipal Development Plan (draft) that an integrated solid waste management strategy is the way forward. The government strategy’s central themes are impressive, for instance, “Efficient and Cost-Effective Collection” goes to the heart of the issue; who pays for all?
Guyana is a relatively small nation as regards population size. The phasing out of the region-by-region approach to waste management in favour of a national centralized approach would indeed “optimise waste collection routes and waste disposal site locations and ultimately be more efficient and cost effective.”
Efficiency and effectiveness would be the backbone of a user-fee model. It notes, “Cost recovery through a user fee, is a necessary component of a sustainable collection system and requires knowledge of the true cost of providing the waste collection service”. It is candid about the fact that a “Flat-fee mechanism, paid through an existing bill (electricity, water, etc) may also be used and while it creates less incentive to dump illegally, there is also less incentive to reduce waste and participate in a recycling programme.”
Cost has always been a sore point, whether cost to contractors or through fines imposed. The harmonization of fines would be an important feature, which plays to another important aspect of government’s strategy, “Strengthening Human and Institutional Capacity”. Some of the actions here would be to “complete a review of solid waste management legislation in Guyana to identify and resolve overlaps in roles and responsibilities,” among other actions.
But I think of all its strategic goals, aiming at “Less Waste Generated” is perhaps central to the strategy’s success. The strategy recognizes that, “Avoiding or minimising the generation of waste means: less waste to manage; reduced costs associated with transporting, sorting, and recycling materials, and ultimately less waste going to landfill. Waste reduction is one of the most efficient and least expensive waste management strategies.” But the strategy is equally frank, that, “It is one of the more difficult because the measures required to achieve waste reduction ‒ such as import restrictions and levies – are politically unpopular.”
Whether it is in its approach to the involvement of schools and neighbourhood policing groups; bettering source recovery by the introduction of backyard and community composting; the licensing and regulating of waste management facilities; the development of business waste-reduction schemes; or establishing a technical advisory committee to guide national solid waste management, the National Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy is in depth and breadth what it is in coherence and eloquence.
Sherod Avery Duncan
Councillor, Constituency 14
Municipality of Georgetown