By Ariana Marshall
EDM Digest Guest Writer
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the eastern Caribbean nation of Barbados faced several challenges stemming from a dense population, an active tourism industry and waste generation and management. Illegal dumping, litter and inland waste management are priorities in this island of only 166 square miles.
Following Hurricane Matthew, plastic and Styrofoam waste ended up on the beach. Although the local conservation governmental authority cleaned up this waste, its initial visibility created an opportunity to show the urgency of waste management.
Before the Storm – Lack of Trucks Slowed Garbage Removal
Public commentary in the press noted that the rate of garbage collection had slowed down over the past 3 months in Barbados. The government responded by stating that a lack of transportation was the main reason for this slowdown rather than an increase in the country’s waste burden.
Although a recent national cleanup occurred in late September and numerous organizations engaged in cleanups throughout the year, the issue of waste management goes beyond waste cleanup to waste reduction. The lack of systematic recycling further compounds the challenges of Barbadian waste management.
Waste Management Solutions – Tax, Recycling and Privatization
In Barbados, public opposition to the creation of a waste-to-energy plasma gasification project led to its abandonment before it reached the environmental impact assessment planning stage in 2016.
Earlier this year, Barbadian leaders repealed a solid waste tax due to public opposition. However, on September 1, Barbados implemented a National Social Responsibility Levy on imported goods to raise its GDP to $50 million U.S. dollars.
The government also proposed the creation of a recycling industrial facility. This facility became a political issue due to public opposition to the environmental impact of existing private recycling operations, following a recycled tire fire in 2013.
A week after Matthew, then a tropical storm, made landfall in Barbados, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced final authorization of the recycling industrial facility for use by private recyclers. Additionally, the government hired private waste collection companies to supplement its waste collection. However, a local workers’ union has raised concerns about that decision.
Waste Management Is a Bipartisan Issue among Barbadians
Although there is public concern about the economics of privatizing waste management collection and the solutions put forward, waste management remains a bipartisan issue in Barbados. Neither political party has used its platform to define which waste management solutions are most effective financially and also environmentally efficient.
The Need for Sustainable Waste Management Policies
Because Barbados’ economy depends on tourism and the use of a National Social Responsibility Levy for healthcare funding, sustainable waste management solutions are essential.
Matthew revealed the urgency of creating a policy for both emergency waste collection and sustainable waste management as informed by transparent public engagement. In Barbados, the public’s opposition to previous waste management solutions indicates that although policy solutions can occur after a hurricane-focusing event, the sustainability and success of these solutions depend on both an engaged and informed public.
A sustainable policy solution that continually fosters public engagement would establish tax incentives for businesses and householders who have documented a reduction in their waste as a result of composting, recycling and use of recyclable products. That way, the waste management load is decreased at the source, thereby also reducing the government’s financial waste burden.
About the Author
Dr. Ariana Marshall is a faculty member with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math at American Public University. She is the Director for the Caribbean Sustainability Collective and focuses on culturally relevant sustainability and climate change adaptation. Ariana completed her doctorate in environmental science and risk management at FAMU.