The March 7 commentary by William Walker was of special interest to me as I have some expertise and experience in the field of recycling. While I agree with most of Mr. Walker’s well-researched article, I have comments of my own to add. Firstly, incineration as it is done here is the most costly and inefficient method of solid waste disposal ever devised. We may as well be burning money down at Pockwood Pond, which, in reality, we are! At least 60 percent of our solid waste can and must be recycled.
Immediately after the original incinerator was installed, it was discovered that glass does not burn — at least not at the temperature created in this incinerator. As a result, it caused endless breakdowns and caused the incinerator to be out of service several times every week. Glass can begin to melt at temperatures as low as 900 degrees Fahrenheit, but it does not actually begin to burn until it reaches more than 5,000 degrees!
At the time, I had met with the then minister as well as the director of the Solid Waste Department to offer some solutions. In fact, I offered to crush all the glass delivered to the incinerator free of charge if it was separated and delivered to our crusher, which was just a few hundred feet away from the incinerator. However, this seemed to be too difficult a task for the department to handle and, as such, it was never carried out.
Glass, metal, plastics
Now crushed glass can be recycled in many ways. It can be used as clean landfill, and it can be mixed into road base, asphalt and concrete — a method that has been done in many parts of the world for more than 60 years. Tyres can also be recycled in much the same way but by a different method rather than burning, which releases deadly petrochemical smoke and fumes, as we have done here since the 1960s. A properly sized shredder can handle even the largest truck and heavy equipment tyres with no pollution and at a relatively low cost. It can also be trailer mounted and brought to any location. It can either operate by an electric motor or a diesel engine, and it produces no fumes or smoke and very little noise.
Plastics, bottles, foam food containers and so on cannot be recycled here now as this requires complex, expensive equipment, which would not be feasible or cost effective here at this time. However, this type of trash can be compressed in bails and shipped out to a recycling centre in Puerto Rico or Florida. This can also be a portable, cost-effective solution.
However, this is not considered profitable until you consider the real cost of our solid waste and incinerator operation here, which requires very expensive fuel and chemicals, all of which are consumed constantly — and must be purchased constantly and shipped in, much of it in plastic containers!
Pallets, batteries, aluminium cans, paper and cardboard boxes can all be recycled by consolidating them and shipping them out to Puerto Rico or Florida. We have dozens of empty containers going back to the United States every week. Even if it is a break-even cost, we still win by reducing incineration costs and limited landfill disposal operations. A proper shredder can even handle galvalume, rebar, refrigerators, stoves, water heaters, construction debris and most other non-combustible materials.
However, all this requires desire, effort, thought, planning and organisation to implement. It also will require mandatory recycling and separation of waste products. This can easily be implemented by businesses and supermarkets initially. I believe Road Town Wholesale has some kind of a programme for pallets, cardboard, and so on.
I suppose I really should apply for one of those high-paying government consultancy contracts. However, I was infected by Paul Wattley’s sense of purpose way back in the early 1980s, so my advice is free for the asking. But it sure would be nice to drive from the airport to West End without passing endless overflowing dumpsters, trash, bottles, cans, plastic bags, food containers and various other discarded items everywhere! Unfortunately, this is what our tourists and visitors see every day and what many of us have become so accustomed to that we hardly notice it any longer!