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  • Writer's pictureYashoda Singh

Symposium on Integrated Solid Waste Management

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

UWI's Role in Solid Waste Management

In an effort to consolidate the stakeholders deemed necessary to develop a comprehensive programme to address the solid waste management (SWM) problem in Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies (UWI) engaged in a symposium on Monday 2nd March, 2020 at the Faculty of Engineering, University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

This forum saw guest speakers from the UN Environment Program, University Consultation, Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL), Environmental Management Authority (EMA), iCare, and many others.

The purpose of this forum was to develop the UWI's role in achieving Sustainable Integrated Solid Waste Management Systems(ISWM).

Dr. Vincent Cooper (UWI) highlighted the Tripple A's (Accessibility, Alignment, and Agility) necessary in order to effect change and can only be achieved by partnering with others such as those in Latin America like the Consortium so that a holistic WMS can be developed in the Caribbean.

Mr. Pon (Regional Chemical Waste Coordinator, UNEP), drew attention to the increased threat of SW to the region. It's 48% more than the world average with organic waste (OW) dominating at 46%. There is a critical need for increased collection and recycling rates as there is increased generation compared to 10-15 years ago. In 2010, the SW generation in T&T was 700,001 with Municipal SWG at 1.42 kg per day. Mr. Pon further explained the need for a circular economy as 95% of waste is being dumped.

There is however an opportunity to recover valuable resources but cooperation is required at a national and local level. Thus, a combination of different strategies in WM is needed. The problems and solutions are local and education and training is essential.

Ms. Joanne Deoraj, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning indicated that by 2020 it was estimated that T&T would generate 1.4 million tonnes of waste. To combat this, she shared that iCare bins throughout the country is 679 (Dec 2019) and they also collected 1.2 million bags (recyclable and non recyclable) in 2019.

Mention was able made of the Bottle Bill that should come into effect in 2020.

Ms Ifill (SWMCOL) reported that 2 of our 3 existing landfills have passed capacity while the remaining one is close to capacity. She posed the question of sustainability as there exists no tax tariff or waste disposal fee and expressed that with the reduced frequency of collection, monies can be reallocated to recovery and allocation.

Currently, there is no sanitary engineered landfill but one is being developed in Forres Park.

Additionally, whatever strategies developed must take into consideration the 200 plus waste pickers at Beetham site.

Ms Ifill concluded by stating that the existing system is functional at the moment but it progresses to dysfunctional and can take T&T 50 years backward.

Waste Composition of Trindad and Tobago

Ms Phillips (Ministry of Public Utilities) spoke on the policy and planning that exists for SWM such as the


  • The creation of a new Unit for designing policies was created at SWMCOL and allows for institutional strengthening

  • upcoming re-engineered landfill at Forres Pack and Beetham (contract to be awarded)

  • waste recycling to be included in the curriculum at primary, secondary and tertiary level

  • the T&T Tyre Stewardship programme enabling public participation - redemption depots.

These emphasize the need for a multifaceted approach to recycling and SWM and the policies necessary.

Ms Anita Headley (Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries) stated that T&T needs to generate power from renewable energy by 10 % by the year 2021. As such, an integrated SWM approach is necessary and one way that is being considered is an incineration of waste to energy (WtE) approach.

In 2014, the IDB funded "A Unique Approach for Sustainable Energy in T&T" study which was used to recommend the WtE possibilities. Ms Headley made mention of the Utility to Scale Renewable Energy project that was successful and the existence of sorting and employment benefits from WtE projects.

In Japan WtE use is at 74% (gasification) while in the US it is low at 13%.

Professor Ramlogan (UWI) raised the issue of existing weaknesses in governance in the SWM sector and made reference to the EMA & Atlantic VS Fishermen Friends of the Sea. Questions arose about flat fee for liquid waste and what was meant by sustainability for SWM? A balance was needed between development and the environment. How do we prevent large volumes of waste and who is ultimately responsible? These throught provoking questions need consideration in order to ensure there is future generational equity (intergenerational equity). Example was made in Columbia where the Government was sued by 25 young plaintiffs (ages 7 - 26) and resulted in the forest now having the same rights as a human being.

The plaintiffs had said the government's failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon jeopardised their futures and violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water.

Professor ended by reiterating the need for Environmental Justice, that is, advocating for underdeveloped communities and wildlife.

Mr. Ronald Roach (Waste Management Consultant) delineated that information deficiency and the consequences of inaccurate information, is also an issue.

Solutions included a need for

  • Data gaps: waste disposal quantities. Trinidad lacks weighbridge (Tobago has one)

  • Waste Recycling Quantities: no reporting systems, need to determine recycling rate

  • Data inaccuracies: example World Bank reporting in 2016 about T&T was corrected to 1.4 kg from 14.4 kg

Consequences if these are not corrected:

  • lack of information leads to reduced investment and tourism industries

  • disproportionate response when compared to the magnitude of the problem.

Mr Roach offered the following proposed solutions:

  • need for information validation at National level

  • Caribbean to develop regional template for information collection, collating and sharing.

Ms Nadia Nanan (EMA) spoke on improving SWM through Public Education and shared the following statistics of a survey done in 2016 (sample of 1000 households)

  • 56% were environmentally literate

  • 80% willing to recycle their waste

  • Only 37% actually practice recycling

There exists public unawareness of SW disposal (such as batteries, electronics and appliances and based on study done, mostly middle income more willing to participate in waste SAS. A collection report 2016-2018 showed 175,000- 275,000 bags collected.

The Cashew Gardens Community Recycling Programme (CGCRP) was mentioned (not by name interestingly) as an example of public education and community cooperation achieving success in rolling out a recycling program.

Thoughts coming out of this forum:

  • The most integral stakeholder in SWM is the community.

  • The programme (s) developed must include community work as a necessity.

  • Time is one of the biggest challenge. Government will need the assistance of all involved (private, public, NGOs etc) in order for us to realistically contribute to the Paris Agreement

In the end we must all accept responsibilities for lack of management and get together for any type of ISWMS. All hands on deck!

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