An improved solid waste management system has been in the pipeline for over a decade and it is finally coming to fruition. That’s has been the focus of the Solid Waste Management Authority since last December and since then work has been ongoing to improve waste disposal in San Pedro and Caye Caulker, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, Benque Viejo, Succotz and of course, Belize City. A Jamaican consultancy firm has been hired to assist with the process and their first move was get a grasp of the current situation using a rapid survey in the different municipalities. News Five’s Delahnie Bain found out today that the tangible results are expected to be seen in the coming months.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
Waste management has been a perennial problem in Belize; garbage collection contracts and burning trash at the dump site have incited controversy in the city. Well, collection seems to now be under control and the Solid Waste Management Authority has embarked on a project to improve on disposal. The project was discussed at a meeting of stakeholders today.
Lumen Cayetano, Senior Technician, Solid Waste Management Authority
“Mainly it’s the social aspect of solid waste management; how to get the citizens to change their behavior, how to better understand what solid waste management is, to get an understanding of what the solid waste management project is, what it aims to achieve and overall how the general public within the scope of the project can assist us to have the project operating—or the facilities so to speak—operating at their optimum.”
The project started in December 2011 and the SWMA has enlisted the services of the Jamaican consulting firm, Search Associates to design and implement a social communications strategy. The team, led by Claudia Chambers, recently completed a rapid survey in participating municipalities.
Claudia Chambers, Team Leader, Consultants, SEARCH Associates
“It was like a small knowledge, attitudes, practice survey; what exists, what are the attitudes, and certainly because the focus is communication, we also wanted to know how people use media and also how we could use it in the future to further the activity on behalf of the authority. We found that there are some practices which are very much alive and attitudes so people see the municipality as being responsible for collecting the garbage and that actually happens in practice. However, they also feel that using the garbage as landfill is quite important and can see themselves doing so increasingly in the future. That was a little bit of some concern because there’s a public health problem with that. We found for example that there are differences—extremely important differences and large difference between the municipalities. So as we go forward, what is clear is that we can’t just put one message out there and say this is for everybody because the attitudes and practices in Belize City are different from those in the cayes, they’re different from the ones in Cayo.”
“After today’s working session, what they will be doing is more on the public awareness side; the development of the PR materials, the radio advertisements, the leaflets, the brochures, all the publicity materials; those things will be developed and once those are finalized, we will go to the press. We will go to the media with all of that to further socialize the Solid Waste Management Project.”
According to Lumen Cayetano, a senior technician at the Solid Waste Management Authority, the infrastructural aspect of the project has also been underway since June.
“We are aware that a lot of people are not familiar with the project although it has been ongoing and we have done a lot of works. We have done works in Belize City, we have closed areas of the dumpsite, we’re building the transfer, the sanitary landfill is about—at the moment it’s about sixty percent completed. Belize City, if you notice, there will be a big structure there known as a transfer station where the trucks will continue to go in but it will be a closed structure. We’re moving away from the open dumps and we’re coming now to a more contained situation where the trucks will drive in and you will have source separation taking place within a confined building known as the transfer station. These will be constructed in Belize City, in San Ignacio, Santa Elena, in San Pedro and in Caye Caulker. We also have the landfill this is another change because the country has never had a landfill before; all we know is “dump sites” but we’re moving away from that, we’re becoming more environmentally friendly in terms of the disposal of garbage and the waste from these facilities; whatever is not recovered; the plastics, the paper, the recyclable fraction that will be recovered; what is left will now be taken down to the landfill for final disposal.”
While the Search Associates consultants have a least another year of work ahead of them, Cayetano says the improved waste management system should be operational for the New Year. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
The team of consultants includes three persons from Jamaica, one from Trinidad, one from St. Lucia and one from Barbados. Three Belizeans—Janelle Chanona, Paco Smith and Philip Castillo—rounded out the ten member team.