PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – More than 90 stakeholders came out and shared their ideas about Sint Maarten’s solid waste future during a consultation meeting on Wednesday, February 1.
The meeting presented the draft vision for Integrated Solid Waste Management on Sint Maarten by 2030. Based on previous discussions within government, this document outlines a future in which persons act responsibly and the country is greener and more sustainable. It also sketches a future in which solid waste materials are reduced, reused, and recycled, and where waste management is funded through structural means and executed by a Waste Authority.
After the presentation of the draft vision, attendees participated in a public roundtable discussion. The attendees ranged from individual citizens to non-governmental organizations, schools, and businesses. Also present were some of the highest-ranking public officials in Sint Maarten, such as Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert Doran, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion, and current President of Parliament Sidharth Bijlani.
“It was an evening of great energy, inspiration, and insights to enrich the draft vision and take the next steps,” said meeting organizers, the International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNGI) and the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB). These two entities are supporting the implementation of the project in which the draft vision is embedded. This project is called “Moving to Integrated Solid Waste Management on Sint Maarten”.
NRPB Director Claret Connor welcomed attendees at the start of the consultation meeting. “NRPB and VNGI have embarked on an important project for Sint Maarten, commissioned by our government. This project can only happen if we all put our minds, hearts, and determination together,” he said.
In his opening speech, VROMI Minister Doran emphasized the need to change current waste management practices and underscored that the commitment of everyone in Sint Maarten is required for reform to be successful. “The vision of solid waste management is about how we can meet the demands of the present without compromising the future. Only together we can create a better Sint Maarten for future generations,” he said.
Gijs Langeveld of VNGI noted that the draft vision is a product “from Sint Maarten, for Sint Maarten.”
“Our project team is enabling a process that is locally conceptualized and locally driven. We are your partners in making this vision come to life and this is why we seek your input,” said Langeveld.
The participants needed little encouragement to share their ideas, as evidenced by the lively and passionate discussions during the meeting’s roundtable segment. The VNGI team was happy with the many insights, ideas, and suggestions that were brought forward.
For example, attendees emphasized the importance of sustained information campaigns aimed at changing the behavior of residents, businesses, and visitors. They also stressed the importance of personal responsibility in waste management and not relying solely on governmental interventions. Attention was also paid to the need of providing the right infrastructure, such as sufficient garbage bins and facilities for sorting, recycling, and composting.
The role of effective enforcement was stressed, as well as the need to make the solid waste management system financially sustainable. Some stakeholders also called on the government to investigate possibilities to cooperate with the French side and with other islands in the region.
“I am deeply impressed by the involvement of all the participants here tonight,” said Prime Minister Jacobs at the end of the meeting. “I want to thank each of you for your valuable input. I also heard your call to action. That’s a call to all of us – as government, as residents, as businesses, and as visitors. We all must take steps in realizing our vision, and we can all start today. We can all start to minimize our waste and use reusable shopping bags. We can all start to give away old items before tossing them in the garbage. We can all start to compost organic waste. As one of you said tonight: It is an island thing, and we must do it together.”
For more information about the project Moving to Integrated Solid Waste Management on Sint Maarten, persons can visit www.nrpbsxm.org/solidwastereforms.
Those who could not attend the meeting can still provide reactions, insights and/or ideas by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for e-mail comments is Tuesday, February 28.