News Releases

Saving on Waste is good for the Economy as much as the Eco-System

For Release Upon Receipt - March 20, 2020

St. Augustine

(Fourth from right) Professor Edwin Ekwue, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and (fifth from right) Ms Joanne Deoraj, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning and Development pose for a photograph with participants of the symposium on The UWI’s role for Achieving Sustainable, Integrated Solid Waste Management Systems in the Caribbean

ST. AUGUSTINE. March 20, 2020 - On March 2, 2020 leaders in the waste management sector gathered at The University of the West Indies (The UWI), St. Augustine Campus for a public symposium on The UWI’s role for Achieving Sustainable, Integrated Solid Waste Management Systems in the Caribbean.

Their mission: brainstorm ways in which The UWI can support the Caribbean in management of waste and so slow the negative effects on water resources, ecosystems, and financial resources while creating opportunities to repurpose material for manufacturing or for generating energy.

A basis for discussions was the 2016 International Development Bank (IDB) report which details key recommendations made at the Caribbean Solid Waste Conference with regard to public health, preservation of the environment, budget constraints, and social concerns, by government representatives from nine Caribbean countries: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti, Suriname, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.

Ms Joanne Deoraj, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning and Development, speaking on behalf of Minister Cherrie Ann Crichlow- Cockburn, made the point that solid waste and its management are typically very low on the public and political profile, the general view being ‘once out of sight, it typically is out of mind’.  “Consequentially, the sector is plagued with low budgetary allocations, weak and segregated institutional management and limited resources, and therefore appears to be of low priority”.

She drew reference to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of which waste management is integral. Among other things, deficient waste management can result in ecosystem loss and destruction, acceleration of climate change effects, declines in national revenue for sectors such as tourism, and elevated healthcare costs.

Global Waste Management Outlook notes that 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid wastes are produced each year worldwide. According to that report, the direct costs of providing a well-suited solid waste management service are less than the long term societal costs of doing nothing - particularly when the current situation includes uncontrolled disposal.

As Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Caribbean countries, with their unique geography and environmental sensitivity, have a disproportionately higher impact from waste while increasing income levels are reflected in a trend towards higher waste generation. The SIDS Waste Management Outlook reports that the average waste generation for Caribbean SIDS is approximately 2.3 kg per person per day, which is 48% higher than the world average of 1.55 kg. The report further states that reducing waste can save SIDS between US $35 and US $400 per tonne, depending on the activity and the technologies used.

Ten year old empirical data for Trinidad and Tobago, one of the more heavily industrialised countries in the Caribbean, showed that 700,000 tonnes of waste are produced annually with a projected waste generation rate of 1.4 million tonnes per year by this year, 2020.  In that regard, paucity of current data is a fundamental challenge.

Permanent Secretary Deoraj noted that, within the domestic policy agenda, the Integrated Solid Waste Resource Management Policy provides the overarching directive for management of the country’s waste in an integrated manner with greater emphasis on the reduction of toxicity and volumes of waste, and prioritising reuse, recycling and source-separated organic waste management.

The Trinidad and Tobago government, she advised, has sought to treat with the 84% of recyclables shown to dominate the country’s waste stream by developing a Waste Recycling Policy to establish appropriate legislative, administrative, and institutional framework for waste reduction and recycling. Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL), and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) have initiated recycling programmes, such as the iCARE Programme, as forerunners to a national scale system. As of December 2019 the iCARE Project has established and maintains 679 collection sites throughout Trinidad at public, private, and school locations, and collected 1,200,000 bags of various sizes containing both recyclable and non-recyclable materials. In all of this, public engagement is key to transforming citizens’ attitude on waste management towards one that is more environmentally conscious.

Just as critical, are innovative measures and mechanisms, human resource capability, as well as co-operation and collaboration. Output from The UWI Symposium will be used as the basis for developing integrated sustainable strategies for training and research.

In his welcome remarks, Professor Edwin Ekwue, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, The UWI St. Augustine Campus, drew reference to The UWI’s Triple A Strategy which rests upon the pillars of Access, Alignment, and Agility: wealth creation and reduction of social inequality through greater and more affordable access; efficient and effective alignment with society and economy; and enhanced agility in pursuit of opportunities. It is a strategy aimed at propelling the people of the Caribbean region along a progressive and prosperous path.

Professor Ekwue related this strategy to the current need to provide access to training in critical areas of the waste management sector to ensure there are professionals across the region with the skills and knowledge to modernize existing systems. This Symposium is one such opportunity to speak with industry so that it can align its research and teaching to make profound impact on the quality of Caribbean management systems.

The St. Augustine Campus, he said, is therefore open to partnering with institutions which can assist and, in that regard, is currently working to formalize an agreement with seven other universities from Latin America and the Caribbean, to be called the University Consortium for Sustainable Waste Management in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The UWI is glad to be part of what has been accomplished thus far, including the development of a full postgraduate programme for sustainable waste management.

Partnering with The University of the West Indies to stage the Symposium were the EMA, SWMCOL and Carib Glassworks Limited. Many of the regional participants remained in Trinidad and Tobago to participate in a short course on sustainable solid waste management systems hosted by the Faculty of Engineering of the St. Augustine Campus.


Notes to Editor

For photos captured at the symposium, please visit:

About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, The UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Open Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. The UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. Website:


(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)