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Making T&T green

The T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA) is seeking to make the country the green manufacturing capital of the western hemisphere. Greig Laughlin, president of the TTMA, said the association is lobbying for a number of green initiatives in order to create new eco-investment and business opportunities within the industry while engaging in a healthy and clean environment. One of these initiatives is the establishment of a plastic plant industry. Laughlin said the association is in support of the Government’s idea of the plastic and glass manufacturing plants. Two weeks ago, during her contribution to the 2010/11 budget debate in Senate, Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan announced that a billion-dollar plastics plant and a glass manufacturing plant are likely to replace the scrapped aluminium smelter plant at La Brea. Seepersad-Bachan said the Government was in the process of preparing a request for the proposal and presently reviewing an anchor project that would allow for maximisation for the Union Estates.

She indicated that there were perspective candidates for the plastic projects and an integrated complex for a world-scale manufacture of glass and photovoltaic cells. This, she said, would require an investment of US$2 billion and the integrated glass and photovoltaic cells project, which requires the importation of silica from Guyana, which required a capital investment of US$2.5 billion. The TTMA is all for the idea. Laughlin said the association has been lobbying for the renewable energy policy and initiative for more than eight years. Laughlin said for the past three years, the TTMA has developed a strong profile as an advocate for research and development into alternative and renewable energy. “The association is committed to working with the Government and other stakeholders to create a legislative and policy framework that enables development in this area.”

Green manufacturing Initiatives
Laughlin said the TTMA is approaching the Government and other manufacturers to engage in recycling initiatives. Already, some companies are showing interest. The TTMA has already began sorting and recycling all of its paper, glass and plastic. It has established a board committee dedicated to recycling and related matters. The plan is to develop a mandate for sustainable/green manufacturing. “We are lobbying for a recycling plastic plant, which would involve collecting plastics from the different Caribbean countries. There are number of companies, including ACE and Piranha, that have already embarked on such an initiative. However, these plastics that are collected are exported, whereby the companies, in turn, buy the pellets to make the bottles. “But we want to establish another manufacturing capacity in T&T to take plastics from all other islands and make the pellets for us to reuse and make bottles again.” Laughlin said the TTMA is very active in constructing the container/bottle bill, which it hopes to be presenting to Housing and Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal before the end of the month.

He explained that after the bottle bill has passed, companies would be able to collect bottles more efficiently and gauge how many plastics they have been collecting which, in essence, would determine what kind of factory was needed to turn that kind of volume into output. “Right now, we do not know how much plastic is collected because there was so much more being dumped.” He said the TTMA was also considering setting up a factory for the purpose of shredding tyres. This too, he said, can be used to make other products, including simple floor mats, carpet, and black turf for playgrounds. Most importantly, “We would be cleaning the environment.” These initiatives, Laughlin said, have been taken to the Government hoping that people would be excited enough now that the authorities were talking about recycling.

Greig Laughlin

Vast potential

Energy industries

Laughlin said the TTMA has also been a strong advocate for the development of a national photovoltaic industry. This is a solar energy alternative where solar energy is derived via the conversion of sunlight into electricity by solar cells, also known as photovoltaics (PV). Laughlin said the TTMA has a firm position that renewable energy development in T&T is essential to the long-term sustainability of the manufacturing sector and to all business activity otherwise. “There is a vast potential latent in the solar PV industry and now is the time to research, invest and build a sustainable industry in support of the economic diversification efforts of our emerging economy.” He said this holds the greatest potential for development locally as it was predicted that the PV industry would be the most significant source of electricity in the world beyond 2050.

Laughlin said this is likely to be the fastest growing industry world-wide and TTMA’s industry’s input-output scenario indicates that a PV industry in T&T could generate revenues of US $ billion a year to 2020, putting T&T well on its way to supplementing natural gas as its main revenue earner. He said this industry offers an abundance of manufacturing opportunities, including solar wafers, solarcells, glass and substrate as well as electrical distribution component development. Laughlin said the TTMA was also in support of a silica smelter, which is not as dangerous as an aluminium smelter. He explained that the process would entail taking silica from Guyana and be melted in T&T, which would be taken to the glass plant where it would produce ultra clear glass, the main component for solar panels. “I do know that there is a plan by some investors who have already gone to the Government with a proposal, but the Government would have to tender, which is the right thing to do,” he said.

Green strategies
Laughlin said these green manufacturing initiatives would make great economic sense in that they would allow for creation of jobs, which would seek to tackle global warming, gain a strategic foothold in a new industry, build a high productivity, high wage manufacturing sector that would also meet other national goals.
He said there were a lot of people who have already start looking at importing containers out of China to benefit from the Government’s renewable energy initiative. From a marketing perspective, Laughlin said it would add value for the country to market its products as environmentally friendly products, which would also boost its image as a tourist destination. “It’s a global world and our products need to be on the cutting edge as everybody else. We cannot expect to continue to compete with the Indias and Chinas. We need to be more innovative and get our products out there before anybody else, especially Caricom, which is one of our largest markets,” Laughlin said.

Al Gore

Al Gore’s green solutions

“The population needs to get involve in green technology because this where the future is…it is the new frontier. In order to remain competitive, T&T needs to get aboard in finding ways on how we could manufacture goods more efficiently and effectively and also produce products that are environmentally friendly, which is a big niche market that is growing world-wide.” He said people are also becoming very concerned with the environment. The TTMA believes that focusing on renewable energy was the only way to ensure the sustainability of business, particularly in light of the competition. Hence we are taking the lead on this so that T&T can be ready. This is why TTMA has invited the world’s most influential voice on climate change—Al Gore—to talk to the country, he said.

The TTMA will be hosting Al Gore, the Nobel laureate and former US vice-president, on November 4 at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). Gore would be speaking on the topic, Thinking Green: Economic Strategy for the 21st Century. While in T&T, Gore would share practical guidance from these solutions summits with a view to showing manufacturers and businesses how they can make choices to save the earth’s climate while also creating jobs and stimulating sustainable economic progress. Laughlin said that Gore’s presentation will specifically examine issues relevant to T&T. He said Gore was chosen because he’s the world’s most influential voice on climate change. Gore is an adviser to leaders in the US Congress and global heads of state on climate change.

For his environmental work, he was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Gore, Laughlin said, has led more than 30 Solutions Summits with top scientists, engineers and policy experts to examine every solution to the climate crisis in depth and in detail. He has also authored two books on climate change, including An Inconvenient Truth, which was made into an Academy Award-winning documentary, and Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. Tickets for the Gore-headlined event is US$275. The TTMA is also working with various corporate citizens to provide sponsorship for students studying environmental conservation to attend the event free.

Source: TT Guardian

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