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Environmentalist on recycling: No will in T&T to set up plant

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

T&T has the cash to set up a recycling plant through the Government’s $4 billion Green Fund but no political will to do that, says Stephen Harris, environmentalist and director of the recycling organisation, SAVE Foundation. In an interview yesterday he said T&T needed the will to set up a proper recycling industry. This follows a week of fires in the Beetham landfill which led to schools being closed and businesses sending employees home as toxic smoke blew into the city. Yesterday, the Solid Waste Management Company Ltd (SWMCOL) said all the fires at the dump had been brought under control. The fires and resulting temporary closure of the landfill raised the issue of whether closing the landfill permanently was a good alternative. Harris said: “We already have recycling here. Residents from the Beetham Gardens community have been recycling for years. The problem is that it is not regulated and it is not a properly secured initiative.” 


He said if Government was to invest in recycling plants for different materials, it would not only create hundreds of jobs but also establish T&T as a recycling hub in the Caribbean. “They would need to set up a waste-separation system with manual labour or automated systems in order to separate waste, glass, plastics, tin, aluminium, cardboards and papers,” he added. Once that was done, Harris said, it would create downstream industries to do the actual recycling of the materials. “A processing plant will bale the plastic and ship off to actual recyclers or in some cases plastic can be recycled into nylon thread which is then used to manufacture cloth and clothing. “Recycling creates the opportunity for industries and employment,” said Harris. The opportunity would be welcomed by residents of the Beetham Gardens, some of whom have been engaged in an unregulated recycling business for years. In interviews with the T&T Guardian on Sunday, residents said they would welcome the opportunity to work in a recycling plant. Harris said there were people who wanted to set up a downstream plant but there was no proper recycling being done.


According to Indian High Commissioner Gauri Shankar Gupta, as recently as the last three months, Indian businessmen had come to T&T to discuss proposals to establish recycling plants. “I know that two or three businessmen from India have come to T&T in the past few months to deliver proposals for a recycling plant but I do not know what came of those discussions,” Gupta said.
There is a large recycling industry in India. Harris, who recycles regularly, says T&T was in a strong position to set up recycling plants. “Most of the other (Caribbean) islands consider themselves too small to set up recycling facilities. T&T can set itself up as a recycling hub.” He said other countries usually paid recyclers to take waste, like car tyres, and those were items that could be recycled to create buffers for ports and highways.


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