Photo author Adriana La Valley
The Caribbean is a region that excels as a tourism destination with its white sand beaches and clear turquoise water. But no one really reflects on what it takes to keep them clean and what it takes to dispose of waste generated, in a sanitary and sustainable way. When it comes to waste, it is everyone’s business and it takes innovation and collaboration. Barbados has a Public-Private Partnership (“PPP”) that tackles the problem of managing tons of waste generated in a sustainable way.
I recently visited the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre, (SBRC) and it opened my mind to opportunities for PPP investment in the Caribbean Region no matter the scale. SBRC started operations on June 2009, as a result of a long term contract between the Government of Barbados and a local private sector firm. The goal was to receive and process the island’s solid waste to reduce or divert the amount that ends at the Mangrove Pond landfill. Practices that reduce the amount of waste needing to be disposed of in the landfill are waste prevention, recycling, and composting.
This type of PPP arrangement could be replicated, by applying the lessons learned during its implementation. Key for project success is clarity of the revenue stream and to design projects in which public/private win-win situations are created. Government receives a quality service and the private sector firm achieves a return on its investment. This may be challenging when we speak of public services in which user fees may not be socially accepted and Governments need to pitch-in to sustain operability of project. For this type of arrangement, all parties need to pitch in equally doing what each does best.
The method used to control disposal of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) on land in Barbados is known as “sanitary land filling”. Upon drop off and weighing of waste at the Facility, MSW is separated at the Transfer Station (TSP) and recyclable material is recovered. Plastics, glass, or card board is baled for export to a paper mill for further processing. The whole process takes up to six months before shipping. Resulting from recycling processing, SBRC produces byproducts such as mulch, soil, processed coconut and wood, tree logs and wood chips. These products can be used for landscaping or agriculture.
The remaining MSW is deposited in thin layers in a landfill, and spread by bulldozers in several layers then compacted to form a refuse cell. At the end the compacted refuse cell is covered by compacted soil to prevent odors and wind-blown debris. This is key, since the Caribbean paradise that is enjoyed at nearby neighborhoods, golf courses and hotels would lose their appeal, if enjoyment is ruined by an unpleasant hit to your sense of smell.
The SBRC facility was designed to receive an average 500 truck-loads of waste, 365 days per year, which represents approximately 1,000 tons per day. However, it is only receiving around 400,000 tons per day and 60% diversion of the landfill.
One troubling fact I learned though, is that some products are more difficult to process since they have no recycle value. Can you picture artwork and furniture made with re-used refrigerators? Refrigerators have layers of insulation on the metal, which is very expensive to remove and hence old refrigerators have no recycle value. This is an opportunity for innovation and finding a creative solution for a real problem. Let’s find them together!
Photo author Adriana La Valley
Follow us on Twitter: @IDB_CarDevTrend