Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe, participating in the recycling initiative by the University of the West Indies (UWI).  Looking on are officials from the UWI.

"To neglect the environment is to neglect one’s self; and to neglect one’s self is to neglect the environment!”

This was the strong caution given by Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe recently. He called for emphasis to be placed on educating citizens that care for the environment must be one of their foremost undertakings, and for the requisite legislative framework to be in place to police the process.

“If we are serious about protecting our environment, it has to be, and it is Government’s primary responsibility to ensure that there is a suite of legislation that enables the system to police the process. Very often, things that are environmentally unfriendly are not treated with the haste, the speed and the force necessary because of the weakness in the legislative framework,” he surmised.

Minister Lowe, who was at the time addressing the launch of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Recycling Initiative, said this gap would be one of the areas to be “corrected as quickly as possible” by his Ministry.

In shedding light on the existing legislation, Minister Lowe said comprehensive Solid Waste Management legislation was currently being drafted, which would complement the existing Coastal Zone Management and Marine Pollution Control Acts and the soon to be introduced Environmental Management Act.

With approximately 1,000 tonnes of waste being generated on a daily basis and taken to the Mangrove Pond Landfill, Dr. Lowe said the establishment of the Solid Waste Management Centre at Vaucluse, St. Thomas, was expected to divert approximately 65 percent of the waste stream away from landfills to more productive uses.

In addition to the expansion of the recycling programmes, the Environment Minister said Government was also examining the feasibility of pursuing a number of waste-to-energy options. These, he said, included incineration which was aimed at increasing the diversion rate to over 80 percent, increasing the use of renewable energy alternatives and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Lauding the UWI for its commitment to the initiative, which would see recycling bins placed across campus for the disposal and separation of aluminum cans, plastics and other categories of waste, Minister Lowe said he was happy that the message was going beyond theory and academia.

“To my mind, the University’s commitment to this critical programme serves to show that the administration is no longer comfortable with its current waste management practices and is serious in demonstrating to the public that operating as a ‘throw away’ society will soon be a thing of the past,” he noted.

In addressing the forum, Deputy Principal, Dr. Eudene Barriteau noted that the world as we know it faced myriad challenges, namely the current financial crisis, which has been given increasing attention.

However, she stressed that when the current economic crisis passes, environmental issues “will still be with us, as urgent as they are, and as they have always been.

“To manage these challenges, we need to change the way that we conduct our daily business. We need to be increasingly aware of the impact that our daily living has on our environment and we need to take urgent action to minimise those impacts,” she stressed, noting that the UWI must seek to lead the way.

“If we are to create a cleaner, more sustainable world, then the University must be prepared to set the example, not only in terms of research, but in the way we conduct ourselves,” she underlined.

The initiative is a joint effort between the campus, the Solid Waste Project Unit, other government agencies and local recyclers.

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