Suriname’s waste management: is landfilling all Suriname can do about waste?

Let’s start with the bad news:  Suriname does not possess any specific policy or laws regarding waste collection, treatment and management in general. Only certain rules and regulations have been put in place by the ministry of labor and the environment. Waste separation or recycling are almost nonexistent (see below).

The grand majority of urban solid waste from Paramaribo, Warnica, Para and Commewijne is simply collected by private companies and is then dumped and covered at the sole official landfill (Ornamibo landfill) south of Paramaribo. Ornamibo landfill was opened in 1999 as a temporary solution for waste disposal, but has since become the permanent landfill of Greater Paramaribo. It is operated by the Ministry of Public Works. Because of the increasing urbanization in and around Paramaribo, more and more houses have been built in the vicinity of the landfill. Recently, protests by neighbors of the landfill have risen in intensity – supported by some political support of the opposition parties – because of unresolved property right issues as well as the unpleasant smell coming from the landfill. Ground water and air pollution are, for sure, issues at Ornamibo landfill. The government has called for tenders to improve the landfill’s sanitation and to respect public health and environmental standards. Also, transformation of waste into energy is considered an option.

Private households do not pay for collection or treatment of waste (which is paid for by the government). Households or industries thus have no incentives to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

Littering and illegal dump sites are also an issue: 

Dumpsite I saw at Brownsberg Nature Park

Dumpsite I saw at Brownsberg Nature Park 😦

Recycling in Suriname:

Unlike other South American countries (e.g. Brazil), the private sector is only modestly involved in the recycling activities in Suriname (while the government is not involved in recycling at all!). While recycling industry in Suriname started about 5 to 7 years ago when world market prices for plastics were high, the handful of small recycling companies then created stopped their activities when market prices experienced a major setback about 2 to 3 years ago. So, today, this leaves actually only one company (AmReCo) as the sole recycling company for plastic, cardboard and paper. As of today, about 2 to 3 tons of plastic and cardboard/paper respectively are treated per day: AmReCo reduces the PET bottles in size and then exports the material to China.

Plastic bottles collected at  Samarja Foundation, that will then be recycled by AmReCo.

Plastic bottles collected at Samarja Foundation, that will then be recycled by AmReCo.

Although the government used to subsidize parts of the PET bottle collection carried out by AmReCo, this financial support was stopped. Since then the total volume of collected plastic bottles has reduced drastically. The lack of public subsidies is clearly pulling a break on the sector’s development. In other countries, as mentioned above, hundreds of individual collectors make money by collecting and then selling aluminum cans or plastic bottles to private-owned recycling plants. Unfortunately, no such incentives exist in Suriname.

The major actors in the recycling scene in Suriname would thus be: AmReCo (processing of plastics, cardboard, paper and export), Stichting Suwama (education and collection) and Stichting Samarja (education).

Encouraging people to recycle plastic bottles (Suwama foundation)

Encouraging people to recycle plastic bottles (Suwama foundation)

To learn more about those organizations’ work on recycling in Suriname, read one of my next blog entries (coming up soon)!