Minister of Planning and Development the Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis took the opportunity on March 20th, 2018 at a Forum on approaches to Sustainable Integrated Waste and Chemicals Management in Trinidad and Tobago hosted by the Basel Convention Regional Centre (BCRC–Caribbean) to signal the Government’s intention to close down landfills in Trinidad and Tobago and to replace them with a modern, scientific method of waste capture and disposal. This will be centred on a nationwide waste recycling project, which has already been initiated by the EMA from January 2018. This is in line with the Government’s commitment to safeguard public health and protect the environment.
As part of the Government’s objective of engendering an environmentally sustainable culture in Trinidad and Tobago, work is being done towards improving the current state of our waste management and disposal system with immediacy. Minister Robinson-Regis highlighted challenges such as an inefficient solid waste collection and disposal system, a non-existent hazardous waste treatment facility, fixed landfills that are either already at, or bordering on the point of saturation, increasing incidence of indiscriminate disposal by the populace characterised by poor levels of environmental consciousness, a heavy industrial base, and a growing population with an evolving waste configuration as factors giving rise to issues of public health hazards, disease manifestation, wildlife threats and environmental degradation in Trinidad and Tobago.
Citing the Final Report of the Trinidad Solid Waste Program’s Waste Characterization and CENTROID Study (2010), Minister Robinson-Regis underlined that the main household waste streams consist of organic material (27.15%), plastics (19.17%), paper (18.77%) and glass (10.15%), and because there is no segregation of waste in households even the recyclable wastes are destined to the almost filled to capacity landfills located in Guanapo, Beetham and Claxton Bay. She also specified that “Landfilling remains the primary method of disposal and as of 2010, with a population of 1.3 million inhabitants, Trinidad and Tobago had a waste generation rate of 700,000 tonnes on an annual basis, or 1.5 kilograms per capita per day”. Further, “it is estimated by 2020, the country will be generating 1.4 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per year at this rate”.
In the wake of this data, Minister Robinson-Regis took the opportunity to outline the strategic sectoral plans to avert unsustainable waste management practices in Trinidad and Tobago which will take the course of:
- Closure and rehabilitation of both the Beetham and Gunapo sites;
- Upgrading of the Forres Park Landfill to international standards; containment of waste and waste by-products, underpinned by strategies to promote waste prevention and minimisation at the source;
- Diversion of waste from the landfills;
- Capture and recovery of materials for the productive economy which includes re-use, recycling and gathering energy from waste;
- Strengthening the policy, legislative, institutional and regulatory frameworks for waste management;
- And public education and enforcement on sustainable waste practices such as waste prevention and minimisation, re-use and recycling.
The responsibility of Trinidad and Tobago to set exemplary standards of waste management is integrated in the global treaties to which we are party, including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements and Hazardous Wastes and their disposal; the Stockholm convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs); and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. The Ministry of Planning and Development as the Focal Point for these Conventions sees the importance of the synergy of such Conventions in working toward our environmental goals outlined by theme 5 of the National Development Strategy of Trinidad and Tobago Vision 2030 which is ‘Placing the Environment at the centre of social and economic development’. Vision 2030 outlines the trajectory required to steer the country further onto the path of sustainable development and fulfil the Sustainable Developments Goals outline by the United Nations. In this regard, the BCRC–who has engaged in projects related to management of e-waste, waste tyres, persistent organic pollutants or POPs, industrial chemicals, mercury, and waste oils has aided the government in formulating informed policy decisions that align Trinidad and Tobago with the evolving solutions to international environmental issues.