Cooperative Republic of Guyana

Solid Waste Management

Aimed at enhancing Guyana’s garden city image and improving its solid waste management structure, the Ministry of Communities has outlined a comprehensive and economically viable, bio-friendly initiative that will serve as a blueprint for the implementation of best practices.

The strategic framework will guide government’s agenda on waste collection, transportation and disposal; improving the waste management infrastructure, enforcing existing legislation and promoting waste- to- energy initiatives.

Referred to as the National Solid Waste Management Strategy (NSWMS), it will serve to inform the country’s integrated efforts at converting waste material into useful resources by ensuring their full utilization and eventual exploitation for byproducts and value-added.

The objective is to reduce the long-term environmental, social and economic impact of a broken, archaic and disorganized system of solid waste management as the nation grapples with the re-socialization of a generation which thrived under a culture of littering and unlawful disposal of garbage that had plagued the country for a number of years.

Its purpose is also to ensure that Guyana’s natural resplendence and unspoiled beauty remains intact and consequently preserve and ensure the health and wellness of the nation’s most precious asset; its human resource.

Among some of the measures is the already implemented ban on Styrofoam, a reduction in the utilization of plastic material, the implementation of a container-recycling project and the introduction of a robust garden/community composting system.

The strategy covers a broad spectrum of waste including residential, commercial, industrial, scrap metal, those produced by healthcare facilities, discarded oils and electrical and electronic refuse.

It is projected that by the year 2024, 40 percent of all generated waste will be recycled, composted or otherwise put to use.

In recent times, there have been quite a few efforts at promoting a cleaner environment through various anti-litter campaigns.

Most notably; the Guyana Shines initiative launched by the US Embassy, the Ministry of Natural Resources “Pick it Up” and President David Granger’s nationwide community clean-up efforts.

 

There are several agencies with the responsibility and oversight for solid waste management in Guyana.

The Ministry of Communities previously, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development (MLGRD) is responsible for formulating the national waste management policies and providing waste management oversight of RDCs, NDCs, and city councils.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the environmental impact assessment process pertaining to waste management systems, prescribes standards for waste management facilities and issues permits for certain solid waste management activities (such as landfills).

The Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) operate as decentralised offices of central government and oversee the waste management activities of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils.

The Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) administer smaller divisions within each region, and are responsible for ensuring the delivery of waste management, street sweeping and drain clearing services to the residents within their boundaries.

The City/Town Councils such as the Georgetown City Council are responsible for delivering management, street sweeping and drain cleaning services to the residents within their boundaries.

However, the draft Solid Waste Management Bill proposes the establishment of a Solid Waste Management Authority (SWMA) which is expected to function as a corporate body under the Ministry of Communities.

This authority will provide oversight functions as well as coordinate all policy, operational and licencing aspects of solid waste management in the country.

Other agencies, such as the Ministry of Public Works, the National Bureau of Standards, and the Institute of Applied Science and Technology are also involved to some extent in waste management.

The strategy stands on the legislative framework of the right of every person to a clean and healthy environment as enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana Articles 25 and 38.

The legislative framework of the solid waste management strategy includes;

(1) Draft Solid Waste Management Bill 2014–which establishes a licensing and permit system for waste management facilities.

(2) The Customs Act –which levies an environmental tax for non-returnable containers.

(3) The Environmental Protection Act 1995–which outlines the environmental process and licensing of polluting activities such as mining and mining practices.

(4) Environmental Protection and Litter Enforcement Regulations 2013 –which prescribes penalty for littering.

(5) The Environmental Protection Hazardous Waste Management Regulations 2000 –which gives the EPA powers to issue environmental authority.

(6) Municipal and District Councils Act –which empowers the council to establish, maintain and carry out sanitary services.

Funding for solid waste management in the Georgetown area has traditionally been provided through an annual subvention from central government.

This money is usually supplemented with revenue collected from city residents by the city council. However, the municipal services provided by city council are basic and rate collection has been reported to be generally below target.

In fact, the minimal rates were reviewed in 2012 but despite this and an amnesty programme, the council only managed to collect about 40 percent of the revenue owed to the city by its residents.

Council rates in other town councils and NDCs, which also received an annual state subvention, have not been reviewed in more than three decades and collection has also been said to be dismal.

There have also been provisions for the collection of an environmental tax of G$10 as imposed by the Customs Act which was passed in 1995

Funding for solid waste management in the Georgetown area has traditionally been provided through an annual subvention from central government.

This money is usually supplemented with revenue collected from city residents by the city council. However, the municipal services provided by city council are basic and rate collection has been reported to be generally below target.

In fact, the minimal rates were reviewed in 2012 but despite this and an amnesty programme, the council only managed to collect about 40 percent of the revenue owed to the city by its residents.

Council rates in other town councils and NDCs, which also received an annual state subvention, have not been reviewed in more than three decades and collection has also been said to be dismal.

There have also been provisions for the collection of an environmental tax of G$10 as imposed by the Customs Act which was passed in 1995.

The tax is chargeable on every imported non-returnable metal, plastic, glass, alcoholic or non-alcoholic containers.

However, there was no provision or guidelines in the Customs Act on how this money is to be spent which is paid into the treasury. Government has since announced plans to have the tax reviewed after being sued by a Surinamese beverage company. The company claimed that the environmental tax violated the free movement of goods and the prohibition on import duties on goods of CARICOM origin.

The Caribbean Court of Justice agreed and ordered the Government of Guyana to cease collection of the tax and to refund the beverage exporter in excess of US$6 million.

Guyana’s main methods of waste disposal are legal and illegal dumping and burning. Most of the legal dumping is done by sanitary service companies which take the garbage by truck to the Haags Bosch Landfill at Eccles.

This site covers an area of 50 hectares with a waste fill area of 26 hectares and an expected lifetime of 25 years. The facility opened in 2011 and receives approximately 110,000 tonnes of waste annually.

The strategy examines ways in which Guyana can avoid generating this amount of waste or minimize the amount of waste produced which will result in less waste management and reduced cost associated with the sorting, recycling, transportation and consequently disposal of waste.

It is a fact that waste reduction is one of the most effective and least expensive waste management strategies. However, it is one of the more difficult ways since the measures required for ensuring the reduction of waste, such as import restrictions and levies, are not politically favourable.

While Haags Bosch was designed as a sanitary landfill, for purposes of the National Solid Waste Strategy, it is considered a controlled dump since some of the design features (such as the leachate treatment system) are not yet operational.

In other regions, the ministry in tandem with RDCs and NDCs identified waste disposal sites in accordance with the EPA’s environmental impact assessment procedures and contracted with the private sector for the development, operation and maintenance of the EPA-approved sites.

The strategy has clearly outlined that the national solid waste generation rate is estimated to be at 0.59 kg/person-day and is forecasted to rise to 0.77 kg/person-day by 2024 as the local economy continues to grow and develop.

In addition to this, the non-biodegradable component of the waste flow is expected to rise as consumption patterns shift with improved economic conditions and affluence of residents.

In relation to single-use plastic shopping bags, which are used for a very short time before becoming an environmental nuisance, are one of the trappings of a wasteful society. They are typically issued by establishments at the point of sale for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of the establishment.

Single-use plastic bags are often the focus of waste reduction strategies since they are difficult to recycle and their improper disposal contributes to blocked drains, spoilt landscapes, and animal deaths when mistakenly ingested as food.

Many countries have banned these bags; some have imposed a tax payable at the point of sale, while others have applied a combination of the two measures.

The strategy recommends the improvement of the collection, management and access to waste management information and data in order to support informed decision making in waste reduction, resource recovery, collection and disposal.

In order to achieve this, the Government of Guyana has taken steps to establish national guidelines for conducting waste generation studies and collection of waste disposal data.

Emphasis will be placed on developing local competence within the central and local government to implement these studies on a regular basis.

In an effort to address the issues, the government has already made good on plans to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic shopping bags and encourage the use of less wasteful alternatives.

The government also plans to work with the private sector and stakeholders including the various Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Guyana Consumers’ Association to develop voluntary waste reduction strategies.

Also among government’s intentions, is the prioritization of the implementation of preferential taxation on products locally manufactured and imported and services that avoid or minimise waste generation, or that generate benign and recyclable wastes, such as reusable (cloth) diapers, refillable containers, paper bags, reusable shopping bags, and other reusable instead of disposable products.

As part of the plan, businesses will be provided with the opportunity to examine their activities and identify areas for voluntary waste reduction, which will be measured and recorded to enable reporting against the national waste reduction targets.

Areas for reduction that could be considered include bottled water and non-essential beverages in units smaller than 0.5 litres, beverages in Tetra Pak containers which are difficult to recycle, and implementation of consumer choice options where customers are incentivized to reduce waste such as reduced price for eating-in as against take-away.

The public sector will examine its practices to identify and implement waste reduction opportunities including, but not limited to, eliminating disposable cutlery and tableware at catered functions, mandating double-sided printing and photocopying, and reducing paper memos and correspondence in favour of electronic versions.