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The Issue of Garbage Separation on The Way to a Clean and Green Guyana

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In our quest for a clean and green Guyana, it would be good practice to separate garbage into different groups, instead of throwing everything into the same bin. Mr. Rufus Lewis, a local Solid Waste Management (SWM) expert attached to the Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill (HBSL) on the East Bank of Demerara, describes this as “waste separation at source”. In this practice, waste is categorized and placed in different coloured bins or bags, thus separating garbage that is recyclable or reusable; reducing the amount of waste being taken to the landfill; and reducing the cost to the municipality or the neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) which is involved in waste disposal. To successfully accomplish this separation, there will be need for a number of different bins or bags. Below is an overview of the different types of garbage bins which are desirable, and are recommended by the SWM official for the different categories of garbage.

Biodegradable materials: Bin or bag

This bin or bag is specifically and ONLY for organic waste or domestic type waste, such as leftovers, fruit and vegetable waste, and the shells of eggs or nuts. Coffee filters, tea bags, and garden waste like greenery and grass clippings belong in the bio-degradable materials bin.

Recyclable materials: Bin or bag

This bin or bag is for ALL packaging, such as empty tins, plastic packages or beverage cartons, as those can be recycled. The plastic corks of bottles belong in this bin or bag too. Some of these materials can be reused before being discarded.

Paper: Bin or bag

In here belongs paper and cardboard; magazines, leaflets, books, and paper or carton packaging. These can be sold to recyclers. Local company Caribbean Containers Inc (CCI) purchases cardboard waste for recycling. Located at Farm, East Bank Demerara, the CCI recycles old corrugated cartons (OCC), which are often discarded as waste, to make bio-degradable boxes and packages for a multiplicity of purposes, including commercial packaging, fresh food and fast food boxes, seafood and office packages. The CCI is expanding its purchases of discarded cardboard this year.

Bottle: Bin or bag

Used glass can be placed here, but it would be far better to wash and reuse bottles.

Residual waste: Bin or bag

Residual waste is garbage that includes neither pollutants nor reusable components. For example: ash, dust bag, cigarette ends, rubber, toiletries, and diapers.

Batteries: Bin or bag

Garbage that includes pollutants needs to be discarded separately. Batteries, for example, contain toxics, and should be stored separately. These can be sold to dealers in used batteries and other scrap metals. Bulky waste With respect to large-sized waste, such as old freezers, gas stoves and refrigerators, Lewis advises that these should be stripped of all reusable parts, such as copper and other metals or motors. These can be sold to scrap metal dealers. Only what cannot be used should be placed for transportation to the landfill sites.

Generally Lewis stressed that the practice of separation of waste has economic benefits. Socio-economically challenged people can make money by selling waste for recycling; and the home owner can use the bio-degradable waste to make organic compost, once he/she has yard space. Composting is a controlled decomposition process that converts organic materials such as leaves, kitchen scraps and garden waste into a valuable product called compost or manure, as it is better known locally. When compost is mixed with soil in gardens, lawns and houseplants, it improves soil quality, fuels plant growth, and results in healthier plants. The compost making exercise can be tackled at the community level to generate income or more efficient agricultural production.

The recycling also gives rise to industries which can provide employment. All of this results in less pressure on the landfill sites, which therefore last longer and have a smaller environmental footprint. Lewis reiterated that the practice of waste separation is highly desirable. He stressed that it begins at home.

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