Worldwide, countries are trying to cope with excessive waste generation, but this is even more critical for small island developing nations like Trinidad & Tobago where growing populations, limited space, and fragile environments are just some of the several issues that impact us. With a population of 1.3M and a waste generation per capita of 1.5kg, wholesome strategies that divert valuable materials from the landfills are welcomed. While waste prevention, minimization and reuse are the most important daily steps each citizen should take, recycling is the next best thing when waste is unavoidable.
Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials or objects. In Trinidad & Tobago, however, we use the term “recycling” to cover mainly (1) the collection of waste materials for recycling; and (2), the processing of these waste materials via sorting, baling, etc. in readiness for sale to local and overseas recyclers. These activities are important as they recognize the value of recyclables, provide employment, and divert waste from our burgeoning landfills.
Recycling meets several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and contributes to Government’s objective of placing the environment at the centre of social and economic development. It is a critical component of the circular economy: a system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a close-loop system, minimising the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.
The introduction of a Beverage Container Deposit/ Refund System (BCDRS) is highly anticipated as a mechanism to address the proliferation of these items in the municipal waste stream. The legislation provides that consumers pay a deposit fee on purchase of beverage products. This fee is refunded when the empty container is returned. The returned containers are then collected and processed for recycling. This type of system provides a financial incentive while helping to reduce illegal dumping on land and in rivers, waterways and ocean. The legislation can also be applied to items such as tyres, batteries, and consumer electronics.
Is recycling beneficial to the planet? Here is some clear evidence from the US Environmental Protection Agency:
SWMCOL established this country’s first Materials Resource Recovery Facility (MRF) at the Guanapo Landfill in August 2016. The MRF sorts and recovers a variety of recyclable materials, including glass, ferrous metals, food and beverage cans, tetra-pak cartons, plastic containers, and plastic bags from the incoming municipal solid waste. SWMCOL aims to establish additional MRFs at the Beetham and Forres Park Landfills.
Twenty-one (21) types of waste – from aerosol cans to tetra pak beverage cartons – have so far been identified as being collected and/or processed by over thirty local organizations, including three organizations in Tobago.
Ideally, recycling should be a closed-loop process: making new products from post-consumer waste. In this regard, the following organizations are successful:
The opportunities are there for entrepreneurs to utilize post-consumer waste in the manufacture of new materials/products thus obviating the need to ship to overseas recyclers while providing employment, and, perhaps, supplying products that would no longer need to be imported.
For information on recyclable waste type(s) and the organizations that handle them, please complete and submit our REQUEST FOR EDUCATION & OUTREACH online form.
“Get into Green” is more than a call to action. It is both a precept and a promise.
The promise is that of a greener tomorrow for the benefit of all when we “Get into Green”.