7 May 2018 - In light of recent decisions by some businesses to help reduce the influx of plastic in the environment, Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development, who has responsibility for the environment, is reminding the public that effectively managing waste in an environmentally sound manner is one of the greatest global challenges today.
According to a release from the Ministry, the current state of Trinidad and Tobago’s waste management and disposal system is receiving immediate and in-depth attention to ensure that the detrimental impact on human health and the environment from waste is mitigated.
The Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean Region (BCRC-Caribbean) is one organisation that has been working to address this issue throughout the Caribbean with the execution of sustainable integrated waste and chemicals management projects.
It is estimated that by 2020, a mere two years away, this twin-island nation will generate 1.4 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per year. This is astounding because as a small-island developing state, there is limited space and limited resources to properly dispose of the projected volumes. Further, according to Trinidad and Tobago’s Solid Waste Management Authority (SWMCOL), a significant amount of the 1,500 tonnes of waste entering the country’s three landfills daily is recyclable.
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA), through its iCare project is facilitating the household separation of waste and collection of recyclables so that the waste entering the landfills will decrease by a considerable amount, and recycled resources could be used as raw materials in new products, thus leading the country closer to a circular economy. iCare recycling bins are currently in 73 locations nationwide with more on the way.
Single-use plastics have proven to be the most pressing waste issue worldwide.
As such, this year’s World Environment Day theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution” (#beatplasticpollution), encourages countries to take action by implementing measures to ban or reduce single-use plastics.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Caribbean neighbours, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have already jumped on board with these initiatives. The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is currently working with stakeholders regarding a similar path.
In March 2018, the BCRC-Caribbean hosted a two-day forum on the “Policy and Programmatic Approaches to Sustainable Integrated Waste and Chemicals Management in Trinidad And Tobago” to raise awareness of the major waste management issues faced by the country, encourage and facilitate the sharing of information related to the chemicals and waste management sector, and highlight the role of the BCRC-Caribbean and its ongoing projects in Trinidad and Tobago related to these issues. Opening addresses were made by Dr. Rolph Payet, the Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and the Honourable Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development.
Dr. Payet emphasised the need for sustainable management of chemicals and waste in small island developing states (SIDS). He also highlighted the BCRC-Caribbean as a key in the coordinated implementation of efforts to fulfil this need in the Caribbean Region through the mobilisation of over 20 million USD for activities and projects within the past few years. He commended the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for its commitment to implementing the Conventions throughout the Region as the host of the BCRC-Caribbean.
Minister Robinson-Regis highlighted the challenges and circumstances that the waste management sector of Trinidad and Tobago faces, and emphasised the importance of overcoming these issues to protect the people and the environment of the “land we love”. She also stated that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago intends to replace the landfills with modern, scientific methods of waste capture, recovery and disposal as well as to encourage efforts to divert the significant amount of recyclable material that is being disposed.
Trinidad and Tobago is moving towards a superior integrated approach to managing all waste streams generated, and it is vital for the Government, all organisations in the public and private sectors and the people of the nation to understand that working in collaboration will be mutually beneficial to all. In this regard, the BCRC-Caribbean will continue to serve as a resource for technical guidance and will work with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to strengthen the waste management capacity of the country by encouraging key stakeholders and the public to join efforts towards transforming the nation into a circular economy.