“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” – John 6:12

Even though the above text comes from the parable of the feeding of the five thousand, the principle of “let nothing be wasted” is very instructive. It may even be extended to the wider context of “waste not, want not” which is paramount in an economic environment of very scarce resources.

The U.S., when contrasted with the Caribbean, is thought of as an extremely litigious society. Litigation is a judicial process aimed at upholding the rights of an individual or other legal entity. The preservation of our holistic environment is our right and is very important to our happiness and socio-economic well-being. In particular, our physical environment has to be protected especially when there are threats to the health of the nation. In Barbados, over the last two years, there has been more than one perceived environmental health hazard which has induced epidemiological concerns. If this escalates, then our passive litigious society may be transformed.

We have also been grappling with solid waste management challenges and last week, at a University of the West Indies seminar, Dr. Tom Kinnaman presented a discourse on the Economics of solid waste management. I would like to extend this to “solid waste management as a business opportunity” and hence to recognize its potential contribution to economic growth.

But first, it is instructive to note that, in the USA, Environmental Litigation Associates (ELA) was formed to provide the legal community with access to an integrated team of consultants and expert witnesses in the fields of environmental sciences and engineering. ELA is comprised of senior scientists and engineers with strong technical ability in one or more scientific or engineering disciplines.

The Associates of ELA each manage and operate consulting practices which operate independently of ELA and who sponsor, in part, the Institute of Environmental Technology, in Houston Texas. They also serve as Lecturers in the Institute of Environmental Training programmes to encourage and promote good science and engineering and thereby minimize unnecessary litigation. As primary objectives, ELA facilitates technical litigation support and expert-witness testimony for both plaintiffs and defendant causes throughout the U.S. We should bear this in mind.

In ELA’s website there is the following definition: Solid waste management once was commonly thought of as simply “pick up the waste and go dump it in a hole somewhere.” Today, nothing could be farther from the truth. When done well solid waste management successfully blends the diverse interests of a large “stakeholder” community together with industrial interests. Solid waste landfills, like hazardous waste landfills, can now be well-engineered structures, designed not to be offensive in any way. They are also designed not to contaminate local drinking water aquifers. Cooperation between the local community and the waste handling industry is a must if society’s wastes are to be handled properly, effectively, and economically. Unfortunately, this does not always happen and litigation erupts.

The various stakeholders normally involved with solid waste management include: local officials and decision-makers, industry business executives and entrepreneurs, private refuse collectors and disposal site operators, community, neighborhood, and environmental organizations, regulatory authorities, recycling service providers, secondary materials processors, and end-users. Unfortunately this large “stakeholder” community sometimes has disputes which require skilled technical professionals to help resolve.

These disputes may come in a wide number of areas and activities involved in the development and operation of a landfill, including: Siting and Design of Landfills; Siting and Design of Transfer Stations; Siting and Design of Material Recovery Facilities; Recycling Program Development; Source Reduction Program Development; Composting Program Development; Waste Characterization; Economics and Financing; Communication, Outreach, and Education; Implementation Assistance; Monitoring and Evaluation; and Additional Waste Management Services.

When disputes do arise (related to solid management practices in the past) they often require a number of experienced technical experts to analyze the regulatory and technical components of a dispute and to find the appropriate resolution. So much for the regulatory framework, now to the business opportunities.

The vision to which we want to aspire is energy and food security, poverty reduction through economic growth, environmental stability and, with the addition of spiritual, social and cultural factors, ultimately sustainable development. How can we convert ‘from waste to wealth and well-being’.

Science is awash with potential solutions including (1) separation of garbage; (2) commercial recycling (plastics, rubber, glass, organic matter, paper & cardboard and light & heavy metals) businesses; (3) fertilizer production from human and animal waste; (4) incineration to generate energy with harmless effluent and useful bi-products; (5) diligent pursuit of environmental impact assessments to mitigate disasters; (6) diversification of the uses of the sugar cane plant and agricultural diversification on all arable lands; (7) automobile recycling; (8) collection of roof water; (9) mobilising renewable energy resources; and (10) conversion of domestic, commercial and cruise ship used cooking oil and extracted oil from locally grown agricultural crops to bio-diesel fuel.

One of CBET’s Young Entrepreneurs is Handel Callender. CBET is currently shepherding his company Native Sun NRG “We do Biodiesel Right”. Also on CBET’s radar is a Caribbean wide business initiative, a recycling plant to clean up the environment of derelict vehicles. Waste not, want not.