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EDITORIAL: Change our habits


EDITORIAL: Change our habits

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EARLIER THIS WEEK we reported on the concerns raised by one commercial waste transporter that the introduction of new $25 per tonne tipping fee for anyone taking refuse to the recycling plant at Vaucluse.

That operator expressed surprise at the imposition of the fee, noting that he was operating on the premise that the municipal solid waste tax imposed last year would have taken care of the costs of all such operations.

In response, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler explained that the fee was introduced because Government had been paying Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre each time it received waste, in essence taking on an expense that properly should have been directed at the private sector players who were making the deliveries.

Minister Sinckler also reminded Barbadians that when the Sanitation Service Authority fell under the ambit of the Ministry of Health there was a tipping fee at the landfill, but “those charges dropped out” when that agency was transferred to the Ministry of the Environment. In effect, he explained, authorities were simply plugging the hole that developed.

On the face of it, we can find no fault with the private sector, rather than taxpayers, absorbing costs for their own activities when they engage in the haulage of refuse. These haulers charge their business sector clients as well as private individuals when they pick up garbage and they should not expect the taxpayers to foot the bill when a fee is imposed on their trucks when they arrive at the landfill.

What really concerned us most about the issue, though, was a response from a member of the public, who noted: “If you all believe people does dump a lot of garbage in the cart roads and gullies, watch what will happen now.” The obvious suggestion here is that unscrupulous commercial haulers and private individuals will opt to dump illegally rather than pay $25 per tonne to properly dispose of their cargo.

Given the way so many in our midst now handle their refuse, this is not an unreasonable conclusion. We therefore admonish individuals and agencies empowered to protect our environment from such unhealthy practices to take a zero-tolerance approach.

For decades minister after minister and government after government have vowed to get tough on illegal dumping. They have promised harsh penalties and sweeping legislation. As the problem of illegal dumping mushroomed, however, the talk has never developed into anything other than more talk.

Prosecutions are even more scarce than the presence of refuse receptacles along our highways and the young and old alike drop their litter without even bothering to look over their shoulders to see if they are being monitored. We doubt there is a single Barbadian living in this country today who is fearful of being charged and taken to court if he or she illegally and/or inappropriately disposes of refuse.

Under these circumstances there is a very high probability that the fear of an increase in illegal dumping as a result of the introduction of this fee will turn into reality. And we accept that it would be ludicrous to blame the fee if this does occur. Instead we need to look at our bad habits as a society and take urgent steps to provoke corrective behaviour.