Looking at the Styrofoam menace
Last week, the government signaled that it was seeking to curtail the importation of material fashioned from Styrofoam and certain plastics as part of the programme to save the local environment. Indeed, these materials are non-biodegradable. They will remain on the earth without decomposing and would render that section of the soil good for nothing.
This development exposes the country for what it is, a place where the people are caught up in development but are often not ready to cope with the aspects of development. Cases of such are myriad. Cars came and with them materials that needed to be disposed of in a safe manner.
The more the cars came the greater the need to dispose of waste. Oils were often drained from these vehicles and simply dumped into drains and other waterways. This not only polluted the drains and waterways but killed all life.
In the city where there is the greatest concentration of workshops there is the greatest need to dispose of waste material. People did not recognize how widespread was indiscriminate dumping until a thief dived under a bridge and failed to survive. The thief had snatched a woman’s belongings and in his haste to escape pursuit, plunged into a canal and sought to hide under a bridge.
The thief died because he was overpowered by the fumes trapped there because of the dumping of waste oils by a nearby gas station.
People who manage solid waste in the city also complain about the incidence of non-degradable material in the system. Tons of used tyres are simply discarded by the roadside and left there. When these are collected and transported to the dumpsite they will not rot. The result is understandable.
In other countries as development comes there are supporting programmes. Used tyres are shredded and mixed with road building material rather than being left to pollute the environment. In Guyana, this programme is still in the experimental stage. The people with the capability to convert used tyres into something appropriate and into something that would not pollute, merely showcase the capability each year at exhibitions.
It is the same with the waste oils. The Institute of Applied Science and Technology has been using the oils from restaurants and even the various workshops to produce fuel. There is not enough being produced for the government to undertake the conversion on a large scale but surely it could facilitate the collection of the oils. There are many areas where the impact of careless dumping of oil is evident—no grass and an impenetrable sludge.
In the case of Styrofoam and plastics, these are dumped into the waterways, chocking many of them. We have all seen the photographs of garbage choked canals. What many fail to realize is that these canals lead to the rivers and subsequently to the ocean. Such garbage kills marine life.
Increasingly, local producers are turning to plastic because of the weight. It is easier to transport more because of plastic for the same cost. Plastic actually enhances profit, therefore. However, in Guyana, these plastic containers are simply discarded in a haphazard manner.
There have been attempts to convert the plastic material to briquettes for recycling. Banks DIH was one entity that was prepared to recycle its plastic bottles. It had switched from glass for a variety of reasons. It contended that it was easier to use disposable containers.
Demerara Distillers Limited also eyed recycling and with good reason because each of these major companies were required to pay an environmental tax on their imports.
What we find surprising is the noise that is coming from the vendors who use the Styrofoam containers. They feel that they will be left in the cold, having to invest in some other material.
The truth is that for all its talk the government never seriously pursued recycling. All garbage is placed in a single container and any separation is done by the pickers at the dump site. It is time the government addresses the issue of recycling, penalizing those who fail to and rewarding those who do. There will be less non-biodegradable material in the environment.