Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe heads to Parliament tomorrow to table amendments to the Sanitation Services (SSA) Act, amid ongoing problems surrounding the operations of the state-run SSA.
Without detailing the problems, Lowe told reporters today that the issues affecting the island’s lead waste disposal agency had been “catalogued, documented, discussed, debated, you name it, and we are working to correct those issues”.
However, he also warned Barbadians that in the immediate future Government would seek to ensure that the polluter pays, while stoutly defending its implementation last year of a $25 tipping fee.
Insisting that neither the fee nor the reported shortage of SSA trucks was to blame for the ≈current problem of illegal dumping facing the island, the minister said: “I hear people saying all the time, ‘the Government wouldn’t buy trucks. The minister wouldn’t buy trucks.’”
However, while noting that the purchase of one new garbage truck would cost roughly $480,000, he said, “the truth of the matter is that the minister would like to go buy 100 trucks, but that is not going to solve the problem”.
Following a tour of south coast beaches, some of which have been negatively impacted by illegal dumping, Lowe however warned that Government would be pursuing a polluter pays model of tax collection.
“If it is in the heart of man, Barbadian man, to be irresponsible in the disposal of his garbage, or her, in the case of a woman, then trucks will not solve the problem,” he argued.
“There needs to be an attitudinal adjustment where persons take ownership of their country and begin to believe, ‘as Barbados go so go I,’” stressed Lowe.
Since its introduction last year, the controversial tipping fee has been widely criticized by industry players, with prominent businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams recently suggesting that it could be one of the reasons for the increase in illegal dumping.
However, Lowe said: “What amazes me is that most persons who live on this island are within walking distance of a carriageway [and] if a garbage truck cannot get up your gap because it is too large then there are provisions made for you to come to a common area and place your waste, and it will be collected.”
In response to criticisms that have been levelled against the Government, he said: “I don’t know what the Government is to do. I don’t know if the Government is supposed to police every single activity with a whip and a loudspeaker and say, ‘when you are finished take your garbage or put it in a common area where it can be collected.’”
While expressing bewilderment over the situation where he said Barbadians were not disposing of their garbage properly despite numerous messages, Lowe said in launching the SSA amendment Bill in Parliament tomorrow, he would also take the opportunity “to address some of these issues of waste and waste management and where we need to go with that process”.
However, when pressed on a possible timeline for the revision of the tipping fee, Lowe simply said, “There are some people who do not like to wear clothes. I challenge them to walk through Barbados naked.
“They may not like it but a rule is a rule, and if the Government implement a tipping fee that is within reason, which we know it is within reason, because international standards suggest to us that Barbados has one of the lowest tipping fees, and for many years never really charged a tipping fee.
“We will look at the tipping fee, we will scrutinize it, we will try to ensure that all persons who generate waste are a part of the paying for that waste and therefore you can anticipate that there will be a further examination of the tipping fee with a view of ensuring that it is a fee that does not discriminate against anyone, it is a fee that is manageable and that it is within the corridors of international law and expectation,” he said.
However, when asked if he was satisfied that the tipping fee was raking in the monies intended by the Government Lowe said it was “not about the money”.
“It is about coming up with a fair system to ensure that we have the same first world standards that we strive for, we accept and we practice. There could always be an argument as to why do we pay a fee, so who pays it?” he said.