by Julia Rawlins-Bentham
Just a phone call! That’s all it would take for citizens to have pieces of houses, toilets, old refrigerators and other bulky materials removed from their premises.
But, instead of calling the relevant authorities, some have opted to indiscriminately dump household waste into the streets, creating an eye sore for residents and visitors, and opening a welcoming door to rodents.
It is a practice that has prompted Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe to issue another appeal to members of the public to stop illegal dumping.
“In this country, the collection, sorting and disposal of waste are costs that the Government has borne all by itself to ensure a clean country can be enjoyed by citizens and visitors. Help us keep it clean,” he pleaded during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service.
He referred to the Bulk Waste Collection Programme, under which people needing bulky items removed from their homes may call the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) and arrange for their removal, thus avoiding the unsightly disposal on the streets.
“For many years the Government of Barbados collected waste free of cost while it had to foot the bill for the purchase of trucks at a cost of $1/2 million, the provision of bins and other related services.
“If Government has been doing it at its own cost for so many years, and the country continues to demand high levels of sanitation services, the least that can be expected is the full cooperation of citizens . . . ,” the minister declared.
He added that the SSA had also done its part by ensuring people had bins, garbage bags and skips in communities with high volumes of waste.
But, Lowe pointed out that the generation of waste in Barbados was on the increase, with the last estimate being placed at approximately 1,000 tonnes daily, a figure which has likely risen over the last three to five years with the island’s growing housing stock.
Likewise, he added, the challenges of managing and monitoring the collection of waste, and associated costs have also grown. As a result, the SSA finds itself under extraordinary pressure to keep up with the challenges posed by the demands of waste collection and disposal on the island.
These pressures associated with cost would include operating collection vehicles, maintenance, vehicle purchase and other related operational costs.
“At the end of the day the mandate of the SSA is the efficient delivery of an excellent collection service. For this to happen, there must be a cooperative relationship between the producers of waste and the collectors of waste,” Lowe again emphasized.
He acknowledged that from “time to time” challenges would be experienced with the collection routine and routes not being serviced on time. However, the SSA has noted the need for a continuous programme of improvement in those areas, and is currently formulating measures to address them.
One such measure is the recent purchase of new collection vehicles, and the supplementing of the authority’s mechanical and repair service by outsourcing
some of the work.
Lowe explained that such decisions were not “out of the ordinary” and were necessary to ensure that the existing fleet became as fully functional as possible.
But, despite the efforts being made, the minister said he was aware of the growing incidents of illegal dumping across the country that had engendered the wrath of those working at the SSA and concerned citizens.
He pointed out that people seemed to have missed the connection between their involvement in illegal dumping activities and the unfortunate perceptions it brought.
“The ultimate perception is that Barbados is not clean and not suitable for the message of beauty which we seek to project, especially to our international visitors,” the Minister of the Environment noted.
Stressing that this negative behaviour “needs to stop”, Lowe said people must take responsibility for their personal habits and practices.
“It should not require legislation, policing and penalties to discourage people from practising this kind of behaviour. When people dump illegally, it not only impacts the aesthetics of the country, but also our water supply.
“It affects the conditions that result in flooding, that impact people’s being able to get back and forth and do business and access their communities. This is not a problem of Government or the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, this is a problem among citizens, especially those who choose to practise these negative behaviours,” Lowe said.
The minister again urged all Barbadians and visitors to join in the efforts to keep the country clean.