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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Talking trash

We were struck very soon after we arrived in Barbados by the apparent absence of recycling of household waste, in an island that seems to have moved well ahead in some other environmental areas, and has a long history of using renewable energy (see link about renewable energy scenarios). Barbados had windmills in the 1700s, after the introduction of sugar production, and now has most houses and buildings fitted with solar panels for water heating. In 1980, when the late Prime Minister Tom Adams introduced the Homeowners Tax Benefit which allowed the homeowner to claim the cost of the solar water heater against income taxes, the industry received a major boost. The government of Barbados would like to have renewable energy contribute 40% of the island's primary energy by 2010, from some 15-20% now.

We have lived many years in the UK and US, and accepted the need to separate all forms of household waste: recyclables (glass, plastic, paper, aluminium cans, cardboard, garden trash); food scraps; hazardous waste (like car batteries) could be collected separately. So, we feel very uncomfortable filling trash bags with things that we know can be recycled.

I understand from discussions with some in the hotel industry that there is a well-developed system for recycling drinks bottles, where the volumes are of course considerable. Nevertheless, one of Barbados' controversial subjects in recent years involved plans to use a landfill in the inappropriately named area of "Greenland", in St. Lucy parish. (Someone mentioned to me recently, with shock, that Barbados was due to ship its rubbish to Greenland, thinking that boatloads of Bajan trash would be heading north to Europe.)

I was pleased to find that there are measures in place (at supermarkets) to recycle mainly glass and plastic drinks bottles back to local producers, such as Banks Breweries; there's a refund on each bottle. A private company, B's Bottle Depot, will take for cash any form of plastic bottling, plus glass drinks bottles from local companies, as well as aluminium cans.They collect from homes. The company wants to expand to take all forms of glass, which would be shipped to Trinidad, but the market price for the product is very low and that business has stalled. They are based in St. Thomas and want to expand into recycling cardboard, but await planning permission to build the needed extension.

As a contrast, I noted today on the BBC website that the UK government is due to introduce a trash charge. English municipalities would get powers to charge for rubbish and "give rewards in cash" for those who recycle. The government also announced a clampdown on junk mail, excess packaging and plastic shopping bags in a bid to meet tough EU landfill waste reduction targets.

Barbados has many models in Europe and North America it can follow on how to organize recycling. The government's Solid Waste Unit has recently had a series of workshops to raise awareness of the needs and possibilities for recycling. Let's see if things change soon on the ground.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are going to have to wait very very very long to see any meaningful recycling happening in Barbados. It is not in the vested interest of some to have recycling! A landfill is much more profitable.

popeth said...

Great to see you talking about these issues. We are pushing on this sort of thing in Guyana (www.gobeithio.org) and want to help disseminate advice like this. Any help you can offer us in finding information would be gratefully accepted.
cheers
popeth

Dennis Jones said...

There is a lot of information available on the Internet, which was a large part of my source. Check also with some of the regional institutions. I have in mind the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (www.iica.int), and will follow up with their Barbados representative, though there is also an office in Guyana. Your own interest in humunitarian envrionmentalism is also an area that is well covered on the Internet. Maybe you need to make your website interactive and start a blog page. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I was among a privilege few today to witnessed a first for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. B`s Recycling/ B`s Recycling demostrated its multimillion dollar car compactor which was aptly nicknamed "The Beast" by workers.

Mr.Paul and Jo-anne Lewis must be commended for doing more than the government to Reduce,Recycle and Reuse waste without any governmental help. I witnessed a Honda Accord crushed to a 4ft x 2ft solid mass.

Thus I am calling on all Barbadians to give B`S Bottle all their support by calling them to collect Old Cars, Stoves,Card Boxes,Refridgerators, Batteries and bottles.

Shame on the Government of Barbados for not taking the protection of our environment serious.