Barbados’ solid waste disposal programme has been lauded by experts as far away as Japan. And, as a result, Barbadians are being urged to appreciate the facilities in place, and to play their part in terms of reusing and recycling, and refrain from illicit dumping.
This appeal has come from Waste Management Coordinator with the Solid Waste Project Unit, Thora Lorde, who has just returned from a three-month training course in Kita-Kyushu, Japan, on ???Waste Management Techniques and Environmental Education’. It was organised by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
According to her, the programme, which ran from January 12 to April 15, attracted participants from a number of developing countries, including the Maldives, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, and allowed for experience sharing aimed at fostering best practices in individual jurisdictions.
"Obviously, you can’t take everything one is taught wholesale, whether it is because of constraints of money, culture or even the climate of the two countries. However, we just looked at the Japanese experience and saw what we could do to make our situations better in our countries."
In terms of how the local programme compared, Ms. Lorde said most of the participants, and even their Japanese host, felt that Barbados was far ahead in terms of plans for managing solid waste.
"Unlike them, we do not have dumps, but a well-managed landfill. We also have a proper collection system and programmes in place for education and public awareness. So, compared to a lot of countries, we are managing fairly well. Our biggest problem is getting people to do their part to make it an overall success," she remarked.
Ms. Lorde was also full of praise for Japan’s environmental education thrust, which includes a "fantastic reuse and recycle programme" that ensures that "no one is left out" by utilising?? all its citizens, including school children, non governmental organisations, community groups and even elderly persons.
"I really appreciated how they can formulate their own programmes that would be supported by local and national governments.?? I also admired how persons were willing to make a difference simply because it was the right thing to do. Yes, they would have seen the benefits, which in some cases involved money, but largely because they were really moved to make Japan a better place."
One programme which stood out for the Solid Waste Project Unit official was a recycling project that made shopping bags. It utilised the material from umbrellas left in lost and found bins. The bags were sold for a minimal fee in an attempt to reduce the use and improper disposal of plastic bags. The elderly, including many retirees, were the key persons behind this project.
"I think that we need to show Barbadians that the elderly can still contribute. Hopefully, I will get to work with some community groups so that I could implement a similar project. We may not use umbrellas, but we could make bags and sell them as a means of replacing plastic bags in the home. That is one thing that I am hoping to undertake."
Ms.Lorde, who is also longing to see the integration of solid waste management into the school curriculum, noted that, in most cases, there were science teachers who showed an interest. She stressed, however, that this could be taught across the curriculum, where students could learn practical life lessons, as well as the specific subject area.
Deeming it very useful to interact with persons from other countries, to see what they encountered daily, Ms. Lorde noted "some of them live in terrible conditions and they have a lot to try to clean up.
"We don’t need to dump, we have a fantastic collection system here – even better than in some parts of Japan, because we have house-to-house, while in some areas they don’t even get that," Ms. Lorde noted.
With Barbadians getting collections at least once a week, and sometimes two times per week, the solid waste official said Barbadians simply needed to appreciate what they had and build on it.
"Work with the system that you have. Don’t just dump indiscriminately; there is some facility for you out there – just do the right thing!" she urged.
So, as attention is focused on the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, the Solid Waste Project Unit is leading the way in implementing?? the fourth R -Recover- where every effort will be made to maximise income generation, and to see waste not as a nuisance, but as a resource.