Waste Management
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8 Steps to waste management success: A proven blueprint for sustainable urban living

Recently the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Faris Al-Rawi revealed that TT$16,000 is spent per month on waste disposal per household. Your question at this point may be, where is this money coming from and how much money in total would this be? This article explores a better way to do waste management.

According to the most recent data from the Central Statistical Office of Trinidad and Tobago, there were an estimated 425,000 households in the country in 2020. That would be 425,000 multiplied by TT$16,000 for a grand total of TT$6,800,000,000 or US$1,006,684,920.

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If you take into consideration that there is also waste from construction, manufacturing, agriculture, hazardous waste, electronic and biological waste not included in the figures above.

According to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) of Trinidad and Tobago, the country generates approximately 727,874 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) annually.

This figure is based on a waste characterisation study conducted in 2010. The study found that the majority of MSW generated in Trinidad and Tobago is organic waste (32%), followed by paper (21%), and plastic (19%).

The EMA estimates that the per capita waste generation rate in Trinidad and Tobago is between 1.5 and 2.0 kilogrammes per day. This is significantly higher than the average per capita waste generation rate in developed countries, which is around 1 kilogramme per day.

A better way to do waste management

  1. Waste hierarchy: Prioritise waste management actions in the following order: Reduce, reuse, recycle, and dispose. The emphasis is on minimising waste generation and maximising resource recovery.
  2. Waste collection and segregation: Organise a waste collection system that includes door-to-door collection for households and centralised collection points for commercial and industrial areas. Residents should be encouraged to segregate their waste into recyclables, non-recyclables, and food waste.
  3. Mandatory waste-to-energy incineration: To limit and even reduce the use of landfill space, investments should be made in waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration plants. Incineration helps reduce the volume of waste and generates electricity. The energy recovered from incineration contributes to energy needs.
  4. Recycling initiatives: Public recycling bins should be made available throughout the country, and the authorities actively encourage the recycling of paper, plastic, glass, and metal. Collaboration with industry stakeholders to enhance recycling capabilities and develop new technologies for waste processing.
  5. E-waste management: Implement measures to address the growing challenge of electronic waste (e-waste). There should be designated e-waste collection points, and work with industry players to ensure proper recycling and disposal of electronic products.
  6. Public awareness and education: Public education plays a crucial role in any waste management strategy. Outreach programmes to raise awareness about the importance of waste reduction, recycling, and responsible disposal.
  7. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): Implementation of EPR schemes for various products. This approach holds producers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products, encouraging them to design products with recycling in mind.
  8. Waste reduction targets: Set waste reduction targets to decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills. Set goals for reducing the amount of waste generated per capita and increasing the recycling rate.

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Far from being mere environmentalist fantasies, these waste management strategies have a proven track record of success. In Singapore, a nation of over 5 million people, a single landfill effectively handles the entire population’s waste. This remarkable achievement highlights the efficacy of these approaches in ensuring sustainable waste disposal.

Singapore stands out as a beacon of hope. Despite its rapidly growing population and thriving economy, the island nation has managed to reduce its waste footprint to an impressive degree, demonstrating that sustainable waste management is not just an ideal but a tangible reality.

At the heart of Singapore’s success lies a comprehensive approach that encompasses waste reduction, recycling, and energy recovery. The country’s recycling rate, standing at a remarkable 59%, is among the highest in the world.

This achievement is due in part to a well-established infrastructure of collection points, sorting facilities, and educational programmes that foster a culture of responsible waste disposal among its citizens.

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For waste that cannot be recycled, Singapore has adopted a sophisticated waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration system. These incinerators, equipped with advanced pollution control technologies, reduce waste volume by up to 90% while simultaneously generating electricity, providing a clean and sustainable source of power for the country.

The remaining ash from the incineration process is transported to Semakau Landfill, Singapore’s only landfill. Unlike conventional landfills, Semakau is meticulously managed to minimise environmental impact.

The landfill is enclosed within a seven-meter-high wall to prevent waste from escaping, and its cells are lined with impermeable membranes to prevent leachate contamination.

Singapore’s waste management strategy extends beyond these core measures. The country is actively pursuing a “Towards Zero Waste” initiative, aiming to further reduce waste generation and explore innovative recycling and resource recovery options. One such project involves utilising new sand, a byproduct of WTE ash, as a building material, reducing reliance on natural resources.

Singapore’s approach to waste management serves as a powerful testament to the potential of sustainable practices in addressing environmental challenges.

By embracing a holistic strategy that prioritises waste reduction, recycling, and energy recovery, the country has not only mitigated its waste footprint but also transformed waste into a valuable resource.

As the world grapples with the growing waste crisis, Singapore’s experience offers valuable lessons and a model for sustainable urban living.

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