Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | October 25, 2009
Home : Auto
Wheels of fortune
Brian Bonitto, Jamaica Editor - Overseas Publications

National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) boss Joan Gordon-Webley does not see Kingston's landfill as the final resting place for discarded tyres. She views it as an opportunity to turn trash into cash.

The NSWMA's executive director intends to recycle tyres at the Riverton City dump by grinding them into crumbs which could be used for a number of projects including asphalt for road surfacing, tiles, tile adhesives, surfacing sporting facilities, carpet underlay, noise and vibration insulation, artificial reefs, playgrounds and matting.

"It's a brand-new venture," Gordon-Webley told Automotives.

"We intend to use old tyres and create big business," she said.

Gordon-Webley, a former Jamaica Labour Party member of Parliament, explained that several overseas companies have expressed interest to partner her organisation on the project.

However, a final decision on that partner is yet to be taken.

"We have spoken to a number of people ... more than three. But no selection has yet been made," she said.

Gordon-Webley was unable to give a launch date for the project as her organisation is still "doing research".

Earlier this month, representatives from the American-based tyre-recycling firm, DSC Global, were in Jamaica and expressed interest in the initiative.

Currently, discarded tyres are stored in heaps at the city's municipal dump because incineration is prohibited.

Joan Gordon-Webley

However, the massive build-up poses a health hazard as the tyres are a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Tyres also pose an ecological concern as the metals, rubber chemicals and toxins in them may seep into groundwater when placed in moist soil.

"We'll turn them into something worthwhile ... at the same time creating employment for people," Gordon-Webley said.

In recent times, the NSWMA has been covered by dark clouds of financial uncertainty. The garbage collection agency has had to dump several of its private contractors and is finding it difficult to meet outstanding wage obligations.

Some contractors, including street sweepers, have complained of not being paid since July this year. The landfill, an income source for many of Kingston's poor as well as scrap metal traders, continues to be targeted by arsonists. Smoke from this illegal activity lingers for days, resulting in poor visibility and respiratory illnesses, mainly among residents along the nearby Spanish Town Road and Mandela Highway.

Businesses close by are not spared whenever the dump is set on fire and are usually forced to shut down operations because of the deadly smoke.

But, Gordon-Webley is upbeat and determined to make the best of this new venture.

"The landfill is not a dump, but an asset," she said.


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