Do we need such a tax?
No tax should be so punitive, especially where it is intended to fund an essential service; and, likewise, for any essential service to be effective, there has to be a clear plan for access, delivery and monitoring of it, whether it be health, transport, or solid waste.
During the past week, two of our most important services, health and solid waste management and sanitation, remained at the forefront, primarily in regard to their funding requirements and in the midst of further outcry and agitation over the new Municipal Solid Waste Tax. This led to me thinking out loud that our problem in both these areas is not money, but lack of good management and planning.
Solid waste management –– A comprehensive approach is required that would properly address:
1. Recycling programmes;
2. Garbage disposals;
3. Yard waste.
Currently, most of the components (grass, bottles, food, paper, and so on) of our national waste is placed in bags and placed next to the curb to await Sanitation Service Authority collection. I say most because I would not ignore the efforts in relation to bottles and plastic. However, much of the sorting is still left to be done post-collection and I believe a more comprehensive and ultimately cost-effective approach to our waste management may be adopted to provide useful solutions.
My suggested solutions have been adapted from a study of the solid waste management programme of the city of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Recycling –– Each residence should have recycling bins, in addition to the regular garbage disposal bin, for all items not to be “regularly” disposed of.
Each office complex, apartment complex, malls, restaurants and Government buildings should have recycling bins for the same purposes above.
Recycling bins should also be placed in public spaces like schools, parks, universities sporting arenas . . . .
These bins, usually green in colour, would be marked bottle disposal, plastic disposal and so forth. In addition to these bins items could also be delivered if necessary to the plant or plants that process the waste contained within. Our University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus has put such bins into use and provide a useful guide and example in this regard.
Garbage (household and office) –– All non-recyclable trash should be properly bagged and placed in garbage can.
There are special guidelines and days for collection of large appliances and other bulk items; these cannot be placed next to the road.
Yard waste, animal waste, appliances, medical or hazardous materials are not to be regularly disposed of;
Yard waste –– Grass and tree limbs are put into biodegradable bags for collection.
Encourage household composting piles, and these may be provided to farmers at a minimal fee or used for home gardens and landscaping.
Administration and financing –– The aim of such an approach, as I have outlined, is, firstly, to reduce the cost to the Government of managing waste disposal; and, secondly, it creates a national culture of recycling and waste management. The waste management essentially commences at the household or office level, in terms of sorting and reuse.
With adequate sorting occurring at source, the collection agencies may schedule collections for each type of waste more efficiently and deliver directly to the processing facility for each type of waste. Once such a regime is successfully implemented, waste management codes may be created which, if contravened, may be liable to fines.
Our Government financial resources may not allow for this approach to be fully funded by the state, as it entails provision of disposal bins, collection and final processing and disposal. However, it also provides further opportunity for public private sector cooperation at the collection and processing phases.
Additional financing options are:
A fixed annual fee per household and business, assessed annually via income tax or corporation tax returns or remittances;
Reintroduction of the Environmental Levy to assist in covering the cost of waste management;
Additional fees for certain types of businesses disposing a predetermined type or quantity of waste that may be deemed above normal;
Any other fair means of levying a relevant portion of costs on households and businesses.
Recycle, reuse, repurpose –– Our culture and attitude to waste management and disposal and whose responsibility it is must change.
Many of our problems are not simply a financial crisis requiring an injection of cash to remedy the crisis, but rather the requiring of alternative and more comprehensive approaches and solutions to what we are confronted with.
We must all be encouraged to recycle and reduce our waste, reuse items in the home and office for an additional time or for an alternative purpose. Then we can have a systematically cheaper and efficient approach to managing waste and our environment.
(David Simpson is immediate past president of ICAB and a director of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF), and serves as co-champion of its finance pillar.)