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Wasting no opportunity

As minister of environment, my team and I face daily an array of pressing threats against our environment that need to be dealt with.

Environmental violations caused by industrial pollution, exhaust emissions, illegal loggers and long-term consequences of global issues like climate change and ozone depletion, to name a few, are some of the perils facing our environment today.

Yet none is more challenging, acute and more complicated than the problem and logistics of waste management.

Whether disposal of garbage and waste in the streets, lack of waste segregation or the infinite accumulation of solid waste in landfills, these challenges and more require both creative and urgent solutions.

Waste management is not only a legal and technical issue, it is also directly relevant to human behaviour.

Changing the mindset of humans and the way we all look at garbage and waste is crucial to our ability and capacity to make positive strides forward in the way waste is being collected, managed and processed.

For example, a comprehensive public awareness campaign has been initiated by the Ministry of Environment through numerous communication channels, including social media, television and radio channels. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the proper and legal way of dealing with waste.

This campaign will continue to be made public to citizens. This is a huge opportunity that cannot be wasted.

It will take the effort of all citizens, together with the enforcement of government, to have a lasting, significant and meaningful impact.

As part of a concerted effort to clean up our beloved country, the framework for waste management legislation has not only been proposed and outlined, but also promptly submitted to the Cabinet, following hundreds of hours of combined effort by multitudes of stakeholders.

This new law is a big step forward in reforming waste management practices, or lack thereof, in Jordan, according to the highest international standards and best practices.

This new framework law, developed with technical support from the European Union, includes elements that constitute additions and reforms to the current Jordanian system of waste management, aiming at vastly improving current limitations while addressing critical deficiencies and issues to maximise the current operational effectiveness of waste management.

At this level of strategic planning, this new law will set a new and lasting precedent for the future of our beloved country and our children, to include provisions for regulating waste at the source.

It adds the “polluter pays” principle, whereby polluting sources will bear the cost of prevention, reuse and processing.

There is potential to generate opportunities to generate energy from solid waste from the disposal sites.

This law substantially adds further responsibility, not only on the Ministry of Environment, naturally, but on other entities as well, to enhance an already documented strategy to improve and refine an ongoing initiative and continue the all-important tasks and work on endeavouring to clean up all of Jordan.

Central to these efforts is demanding and holding accountable large producers of both municipal and hazardous waste, who should develop their own efficient and effective waste operational and management plans.

In terms of promoting investments, this law encourages municipalities to work jointly with the private sector to create and implement comprehensive management cycles of waste, as well as introducing progressive and forward-thinking best available technologies in the area of waste management.

An additional benefit from this course of action will yield new employment opportunities through private sector partnerships.

In terms of governmental and private coordination, the law identifies the roles and obligations of 13 public and civic municipalities, which are either directly or indirectly involved in waste management.

In doing so, responsibilities and obligations will be clear and concise, with no ambiguity and misperception as to where the different entities bear legal responsibility.

This law specifies where the responsibility lies, as well as the conditions for licensing, monitoring and inspection of waste management facilities.

The law will also detail the requirements and roles of all waste collectors and processors, at all levels, from the minute waste is generated until final treatment and disposal, to ensure efficient and safe facilitation and transport of all types of waste, ultimately minimising environmental impact.

The law will establish a precedent that has been long overdue. 

Enforcement will be effected by identifying and penalising individuals, businesses, corporations and industries, and holding them liable for damages for both littering and pollution. 

Our continued work towards cleaning up Jordan will move forward at unprecedented speed.

Increased pollution and waste due to the population growth, is a challenge that is facing all Jordanians. Hence, creating and developing innovative ways to manage it is monumentally important, now more than ever, not only in our beloved country, but worldwide.

Such new ways are an opportunity to enhance sustainable lifestyles and economic development that should not be missed. 

Two coordinated approaches will have to be applied for this to become a reality. 

The Ministry of Environment together with its partners continue to work diligently to create persistent awareness and enforcement.

The writer is minister of environment. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.