The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) has cleared some 65 illegal mini dump sites across the island as part of efforts to strengthen the campaign against rodent infestation and improper garbage disposal.
This was disclosed by the agency's Executive Director, Jennifer Edwards, during on September 12 Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.
"We have entered upon a programme to begin, systematically, to identify and clear mini-dumps because these have been areas that have been of concern and are part of the reason why we have had the rodent infestation. Unfortunately, oftentimes we clear today and by tomorrow they return, but we are persisting…with the intent that we get the message across that these are not areas to be dumped," she said.
She noted that the agency has dispatched enforcement and community relations teams into various communities to speak to residents about proper disposal and storage of waste. "We are getting good response from some areas with that but we have to keep that up," she said.
The Executive Director also disclosed that over the last six months some 1,600 tickets have been issued for breaches of the disposal of garbage guidelines, while another 600 persons have been taken before the courts.
Ms. Edwards said the figures did not necessarily represent an increase in activities but were the result of attention being placed on particular offences such as urinating in public spaces and the illegal disposal of garbage.
"The fine is still $2,000, unfortunately, for those offences but there are different rates for different breaches. For instance, if you tamper with a receptacle you can be fined up to a $1 million for those offences," she said, informing that tampering involves damaging, removing or defacing it in any way.
"If you impede the collection or disposal of solid waste [and] if you block the roadway so we can't get to your collection there is a fine that is imposed again of up to $1 million or nine months (in prison)," she informed.
Ms. Edwards noted that the agency has not used the full extent of the law "as we have really been trying to encourage compliance rather than going through the courts".
She said it is more effective "if we get prevention," as some of the cases remain in the courts for a long time, further contributing to the clogged system.
The NSWMA head, in the meantime, said that efforts are being made to review the draft regulations for the NSWMA Act.
"That would allow us to increase the penalties but also take through the courts, in a more successful manner, some of the breaches we haven't been able to take," she said.