Deputy General Manager of the St Lucia Solid Waste Management Authority, Laurianus Lesfloris, believes authorities in the region need to allow scavengers into landfills since they also have an important role to play in the area of waste management.
Lesfloris was one of the experts speaking to regional journalists attending a United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) workshop being held in collaboration with the UNDP in Paramaribo Suriname on waste management.
St. Lucia has a program where scavengers are allowed on the island’s landfills but it is closely monitored by the authorities.
“What we realize is that they (the scavengers) form a part of an integral informal recycling sector,” he said in explaining the program. “They cannot be denied their livelihood and so we work with them and control their access to the landfill.”
He pointed out that scavengers are registered when they come to the landfill. “They have to register with us to come to the site,” he noted. “There are no charges but they need to ensure that lives are not put in danger by their actions or work. They also need to be vaccinated on an annual basis and always wear protective equipments at all times,” Lesfloris said.
His argument for the program is largely based on a humanitarian principle “that even scavengers must earn a living.”
Lesfloris said the program is closely monitored because “we need to ensure that the items they take and bring to their homes do not pose a problem to their surroundings.”
“Those persons are gainfully employed and make a living of the items that they take from the landfill. That system has worked quite well for us and we have no issues as it relates to that. On an average we have about 15 persons on the landfill,” he stated.
According to the St. Lucian official, the homes of scavengers are visited to monitor the items they remove and the scavengers must present proof that they have been adhering to set rules and guidelines as stipulated.
Based on the success of the program in St Lucia, Lesflores has called on the authorities in the region to consider implementing a similar program because the illegal removal of items from dump sites is also a problem in Dominica.
But Director of the Environmental Protection Department in Barbados, Jeffrey A. Headley, totally disagrees with that suggestion, describing it as “sick”
“I wish to make it absolutely clear that there is a difference between a “’dump and a sanitary landfill,” an animated Headley stated “What is happening here is a ‘dump,’ it is not a sanitary landfill.”
He is of the opinion that no scavengers should be allowed into a sanitary landfill.
“No scavengers should go to sanitary landfill,” he argued. “Anyone who goes on a landfill to scavenge is sick. I don’t care what you say to me, no one should be taking materials from the dump site and it is clear to me that a more integrated approach is need to deal with that matter.”
Dominican, Carlisle Jno Baptiste, is among regional journalists attending the workshop.