[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling]
While I am currently off-island, I understand from media reports and discussion on social media that recently there have been some issues regarding trash collection.
This was a bit of a hot topic in the run up to the 2012 election, being held up by many opposed to the then PLP government as evidence as mismanagement. Hopefully we can all agree now that, while there may be some mismanagement issues [particularly in the maintenance of various equipment], this was not something unique to the PLP.
The workers involved are often overlooked, although they play an incredibly important role in our society – a role we all too often take for granted, at least until something goes wrong.
Despite the focus given to issues of waste by various people pre-election, the respective election platforms were largely silent on these issues, and post-election there has been no new policies put forward either.
To the PLP’s credit, their election platform did call for the development of National Recycling Programme, including bottle deposit legislation, which was also included in my own election platform.
And to the OBA’s credit, last June the OBA MP Kenneth Bascome also called for a bottle bill to be developed, although nothing seems to have come of that so far.
While a bottle bill would not address the current issue of trash delays, it could at least help reduce the sheer scale of trash currently clogging up the waste disposal system.
Based on policies proposed in my 2012 election platform and my 2013 submission to the SAGE Commission, I suggest the following policies may also help improve waste management in Bermuda:
- Implement a ‘bottle bill’ [beverage container deposit legislation] for glass and aluminium beverage containers to encourage a greater rate of recycling and reduce the public health and biodiversity risks, as well as the aesthetic consequences, of such litter.
- Initiate a national composting strategy including curb-side collection of non-meat food waste.
- Install in-vessel composting at the Pembroke Dump facility to replace the existing open-air system, which is unsightly and prone to fires. This would also expedite the conversion of parts of the site to community uses, as it requires significantly less space.
- Introduce a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ [PAYT] system for residential curb-side collection.
- Provide each residential unit with a ‘free’ single 32 gallons waste container [with secure lid and wheels].
- Provide an option to pay, at an exponential rate, for either additional or larger containers [64 and 96 gallons options].
- Containers for curb-side compost and/or recycling collection to be provided ‘free’.
- This has aesthetic and public health benefits over the existing system [less prone to torn bags or rat-related incidents].
- Creates an economic incentive for reducing curb-side waste, while encouraging recycling and composting.
- Allows for the cost of collection and disposal to be partially recuperated.
- Fines for failing to comply with the system [with only waste within containers collected] could also be implemented.
- As opposed to the current ‘flat-rate’ system, PAYT allows those who produce less waste to pay less, while those producing more waste will pay proportionally, helping to reduce ‘free riders’ who are subsidised under the flat-rate system.
- PAYT will also reduce costs involved in waste separation, through encouraging greater rates of curb-side separation of recyclables.
- Such PAYT containers also improve the health and safety of workers, with potential savings through improved efficiency of waste collection.
- Jonathan Starling