A new glass crusher at the Pockwood Pond dumpsite is now tasked with diverting as much as one-fifth of Tortola’s waste stream.
Located between the non-operational incinerator and the concrete plant, the Andela Pulverizer machine breaks down glass gathered through Green VI’s WeRecycle programme into varying grades of aggregate for uses ranging from road bedding to cinder blocks, according to Green VI Deputy Director Sarah Penney.
“With glass, that’s one of your easiest materials to turn into a resource, because glass, which often people don’t know, is fundamentally sand,” Ms. Penney said. “Sand, yes. And we have a lot of uses of sand in this territory.”
Reporters were invited to witness the machine in operation on Friday during an event also attended by various government officials.
“Businesses are encouraged to bring their glass directly, because the community containers are meant to be for residential use,” Ms. Penney said. “Now there is a system, and people should participate in it, you know? Bars should start bringing their glass, etcetera.”
On Friday, Ms. Penney joined Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley, Green VI board member Dylan Penn, and Waste Management Director Marcus Solomon at the site, where two young men loaded bags of recycled glass bottles into the crusher.
The machine — which cost about $100,000 — is owned by the WeRecycle programme under a memorandum of understanding between government and Green VI, according to Ms. Penney.
The Department of Waste Management is responsible for its operations going forward.
According to Ms. Penney, glass makes up about 21 percent of the territory’s waste stream.
If run in two ten-hour shifts, the glass crusher — which can process one ton per hour — should be able to divert 20 of the total 100 tons that the incinerator can process per day when it is operational, she said.
Mr. Wheatley stressed the importance of collecting data on the machine’s progress.
“We should know that without data you don’t know where you are, where you’re going. What are our baselines for certain things? So we could know: Are we going behind or are we going in front?” Mr. Wheatley told the Beacon. “[For example,] how many tons of glass have you crushed this month?”
On the other side of the incinerator building is another example of data collection.
“We just bought a brand-new weight scale, so we can measure the tonnage coming in,” Mr. Wheatley said. “That’s brand new. That came since I’ve been ministering. If you’re going to remove glass, it should reflect over there; you’ll see a slight drop in the waste.”
Mr. Wheatley said the glass crusher is part of larger reforms that will be guided by a draft waste management strategy developed by Swiss firm Agency RED in 2019.
“It has never been implemented, and it’s because of one reason,” Mr. Wheatley said of the strategy. “In the waste management strategy, it calls for [the DWM] going statutory.”
In part because of the cost of transitioning the department to a statutory body, this recommendation will be officially changed in the coming weeks, Mr. Wheatley said.
After that, the plan will be officially approved and implementation will begin, according to the minister.
“This is not sustainable, what we’re doing here,” Mr. Wheatley said of the existing waste-management systems in Pockwood Pond. “It’s not sustainable in any form or fashion. I’m fully committed to changing this. Within two years or three years from now, you should come here and not see this.”
In the meantime, Mr. Solomon said he is working on diverting another waste stream from the dump as well.
To that end, a new system is being set up to process oil from fryers and automobiles, which he said contributes to the frequent trash fires at Pockwood Pond.
“If you go right now by Sea Cows Bay, you’ll see the operations ongoing, where we have the tanks laid out,” Mr. Solomon said. “The only thing we have to do now is install the pumps. As soon as those are done, we’ll inform members of the public that they can come directly there to drop off the waste oil, where we’ll store it in different containers based on their types.”
Mr. Solomon said a bidding process was used to purchase the pumps and a separate bid is underway for the installation of oil recycling pumps.
Mr. Solomon also gave an update on the incinerator, which has been non-operational since a fire knocked it offline in February 2022.
Following months of delays, Mr. Solomon has been receiving regular reports from Consutech Systems LLC, the Virginia-based company that manufactured the incinerator and has now been hired to supply a control panel and other replacement parts.
The most recent report, Mr. Solomon said, came about two weeks ago.
“The last set of photos showed that the control panel was completed,” he said.
The control panel will be the facility’s third — two have now been damaged by fires — and Mr. Solomon said he is working to ensure the new one will be protected in the event of another blaze.
“I’m aware that every time a fire has occurred, it has damaged the control panel,” he said. “So I have had conversations with the contractor who’s responsible for doing the roofing and electrical, which has to feed the control panel, and those discussions centred around making sure that we have some fireproof system around it so that when a fire does occur, it doesn’t reach [the control panel].”
The incinerator was previously knocked offline after catching fire in November 2018, and it remained defunct for more than a year.
A new control panel was installed in January 2020 and the incinerator resumed operations, but it continued to suffer failures that left it shuttered for weeks at a time.
Then in February 2022, it was knocked offline again in a fire that was blamed on an improperly discarded propane tank.
Officials said shortly thereafter that the facility would be down for about two to four months, but it has remained inoperable ever since.
Currently, it is not expected to be back online until after the first quarter of this year.
In the meantime, most trash is being buried in the nearby hillside landfill, which frequently catches fire and sends noxious smoke over Tortola’s west end and as far as the United States VI