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EDITORIAL: Govt must revisit tipping fee


EDITORIAL: Govt must revisit tipping fee

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GOVERNMENT’S DECISION to impose a tipping fee on waste haulers might have been well intentioned, but what’s absolutely clear right now is that it was not well thought out.

For starters, Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe could explain why, if his ministry was taking a holistic approach to environmental protection and waste disposal, it would introduce a tipping fee just after coming out of the bruising imposition of a solid waste tax.

If there was a particular sum of money Government wanted to collect from taxpayers then, from our vantage point, it could have introduced one unpopular measure encompassing the sum of the two impositions, rather than engaging in two battles that add to its already tainted public relations record.

From a national perspective as well, it is clear that for a number of years Barbados has been battling with an illegal dumping challenge that only started to show signs of abating when recyclers such as B’s Recycling got into the business, taking in discarded household items as well as whole automobiles and parts by the tonne.

Now, with one clearly ill-conceived imposition, this Government has mandated a fee that will most likely have the effect of promoting illegal dumping by householders who can’t afford to pay it or who simply refuse to. In many respects it can also serve as fodder for the unscrupulous “part-time hauler”, who will include the tipping fee in the charge to the household or business for removing waste, but then dump it in the first available open lot or gully, pocketing both the fee and the freighting charge.

But the noise raised by commercial haulers points to the area of greatest objection to the imposition. From the voice of the small businessman complaining that his margins are so small this $25 per tonne fee will cripple him, to the market leaders who have found themselves with a major financing cost because of established billing systems, all Barbados must be aware this measure has brought with it serious repercussions.

Today we have one major hauler explaining that since he has to cover the tipping fee even before he collects a single load of garbage, his monthly costs have gone up by tens of thousands of dollars while it could be three months or more before he recovers a cent. And that’s not hard to understand in the current economic climate – the job is billed 30 days after delivery, the customer has an additional 30 days to settle, but like just about every other area of business in Barbados today, it is at least another 30 days before payment is received.

And while the concept of a tipping fee is understandable, especially since it exists in so many parts of the world, the country should at least have an explanation of why Government has imposed such a fee on behalf of a private entity (Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre), which in any event then sells the by-product from the waste back to the consumer.

What will happen when the much-mooted waste-to-energy plant comes into being? Will Barbadians have to pay to dump the garbage from which the operator will then sell the energy generated to Barbados Light & Power?

This whole tipping fee imposition needs to be plausibly explained – or dumped.