An unsightly pile up of coconut shells along the busy Warrens, St Michael section of the main ABC highway, as well as the unusual sighting of over two dozen garbage trucks, neatly parked up just outside the Office of the Minister of the Environment, today signaled angry protest action by private waste haulers and movers.
With an untold number of residents and businesses also affected by today’s work stoppage, the day’s taking at the privately run Barbados Sustainable Recycling Centre (SBRC), which collects and processes this island’s waste, was also significantly reduced.
Officials there reported that up to midday only 15 trucks had actually entered the compound, compared to the usual traffic of “three to four times that amount”.
Tomorrow, the garbage dispose situation looks set to further deteriorate following two important meetings tonight.
Minister of the Environment Denis Lowe was locked in a closed-door meeting with officials of the state-run Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) at his Warrens office complex, just as about 40 haulers and movers came together for their own private meeting at Lord Willoughby’s Tavern at Bagatelle, St Thomas.
Up to late tonight there was no word on the outcome of the Minister’s meeting. However, spokesman Managing Director of Hinds Transport Dave Hinds, reported that the haulers would continue their protest tomorrow.
At issue is the Government’s recent implementation of a $25 tipping fee, which the haulers say threatens the very survival of their operations.
The private operators, who had earlier called for consideration to be given by Government to a credit facility that would assist them in meeting the upfront payments, said the situation had now reached the point where nothing short of removal of the fee would do.
“We have gone past that,” said Hinds, in reference to the credit proposal.
Earlier in the day, the interim chairman of the Waste Haulers Association Anderson Cherry had reported that as a direct result of the tipping fee, which officially took effect on May 4, nearly half dozen small businesses had already collapsed.
He spoke to reporters as Minister Lowe expressed strong disappointment over the action taken by the operators, after he met with them exactly a week ago.
Lowe said during last Monday’s meeting, the Minister said the private operators had agreed to give him 90 days in which to review the contentious levy, which is charged with VAT, for all waste disposal at SBRC’s Vaucluse, St Thomas site.
However, Cherry is very concerned that some of the larger operations could also be in jeopardy after they were forced to pay out more than $50 000 in tipping fees within the first week of the fee’s implementation.
“I think that Government needs to relook and rethink this position with this tipping fee,” Cherry insisted.
He said members of his association were now at the point of writing the Prime Minister to seek his intervention on the matter.
He also warned that the issue was much wider than the tipping fee, while cautioning that today’s work stoppage would adversely affect the vital hotel industry.
When contacted today, the Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Sue Springer expressed fear over the impact of continued protest action.
“I am hoping it [stoppage] does not go on much longer or otherwise that could cause an issue or hotels would look to find some other method,” she said, adding that, “If it does goes on, we may end up with hotels with a smelly odour, contamination and so on and so forth”.