Closing Recycling Centre Is “Step Backwards”

March 4, 2015

[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling]

It is extremely distressing to hear that the Government has decided to close the recycling centre for at least a year. While it is understandable that we continue to be looking at ways to improve efficiencies, closing the recycling centre is absolutely the wrong way to do this.

It sends a very worrying message to the country about what this Government considers a priority – and it’s clear that the environment and matters of sustainable development generally are very much at the bottom of this Government’s priorities.

What is more, the announcement about the closure of the recycling centre leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The centre handles a lot of materials which we just cannot dispose of safely in the incinerator at Tynes Bay. This poses risks not simply to the environment but also more directly – in the short term – to human health as well.

Is Government going to dispose of these materials in the incinerator? And if so, what steps will be taken to prevent threats to environmental and human health?

If the Government is not going to dispose of these materials in the incinerator, then what? Are they to be simply stored for the ‘year’ the plant is to be closed? Is this wise? And what threats to environmental and human health does this pose?

This closure also risks being very much a false economy approach. In the short-term, on paper, it might well save the Government money. In the long-term however we may well find that this will greatly increase costs to the Government – and thus for the people in general.

This will likely greatly increase the volume of curb-side trash requiring picked up – something our system is already struggling to maintain in the face of reductions on over-time and maintenance. Which itself could even have a knock-on effect in terms of aesthetics and tourism, not to mention a risk to public health.

Can the streams at the incinerator even handle this increased volume of waste? Is it likely to increase maintenance problems, leading to additional costs?

With the mothballing of the equipment at the plant, what are the maintenance challenges this might pose? Often when a machine is left unused it actually suffers more wear and tear than it would if in constant use.

Will we find in a year that we need to spend more money repairing or replacing the physical plant?

Or will we need to keep up maintaining these machines as we do now – but without actually recycling anything?

We also risk an increase in the amount of glass and aluminium litter, which again affects our aesthetics, not to mention public health risks related to lacerations and mosquitoes – as well as the threat these products pose for our endemic ‘rock lizards’, the Bermuda skink.

We also have to acknowledge that Bermuda has long been behind other countries in dealing with waste in a sustainable way, and it has taken years of education and awareness to get recycling in Bermuda even to the level it is now. This suspension not only sends a poor message to our young, but it risks setting back the ‘habit’ of recycling. Once it stops it can be hard to start again.

While recycling can be difficult in Bermuda due to our small size, small industrial potential to truly recycle (use the recycled material on island) and the costs incurred in exporting the material, it is quite frankly the right thing to do.

And while the recycled material rarely, if ever, turns a profit, it at least makes better use for cargo ships returning to the USA who would otherwise return with fully empty holds. Indeed, even the small amount of material we export as a result of this recycling plant helps slightly subsidise the costs these vital supply lines. What risk is there that this de facto added cost for cargo ships will translate into price increases on goods imported by these ships?

And what impact will this have on the ‘Bermuda brand’? While the rest of the world becomes more and more environmentally conscious, the closure of our recycling plant gives our ‘green’ credentials, both for tourism and international business, a black-eye.

The statement on closing the recycling plant sends the wrong message and leaves a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered.

This is a very backwards and counterproductive step by the Government at this time, and one that risks being a false economy, costing us more in the long-term than it promises to save in the short-term.

- Jonathan Starling

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Comments (18)

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  1. Ohno says:

    I agree, this is going backwards……priorities NOT!

    • Hmmm says:

      Mr Starling. YOU RUN the plant then if it is so important.

      It loses the country money. You dig into your pockets and pay for this facility.

      Either put up or shut up.

      Spend spend spend…there isn’t any money

      • Family Man says:

        It is not and was never, designed to make money. Same as the Post Office, bus service, police force, fire service etc.

        It is designed to improve our environment and by extension, our lives.

        On this issue, I fully support Mr. Starling.

        • hmmm says:

          then there are 2 of you who can stump up and run it..

          go on find others, raise the money and run it…

          all your talk is cheap…make a difference yourself. Don’t rant about it and expect others to do it for you.

  2. Coffee says:

    The smoke stack at Tynes Bay hasn’t had a smoke in weeks if not months , which must mean that it ( the plant ) is broken . Huge blue bags of compressed trash are trucked from Palmetto Road to an undisclosed location on a daily basis . I reckon Bermuda is in the process of building a Blue Mountain somewhere in the East End .
    The OBA /UBP Will not inform the public of its failures ! This OBA/UBP cannot account for the saved furlough day money so they imply through stealth that because of the end of said furlough , they cannot function or support established programs as mandated .
    Why do we drink the kool aid ? Why are we allowing the OBA/UBP off the hook in detailing by account in exactly how the civil servants shared sacrifice has been spent !
    Thanks Starling … Keep the broom behind their butts !

    • Ex-member says:

      The furlough day was used to reduce the deficit. It is pretty simple to understand.

      And now that the government is prohibited from reducing the largest area of expenditure it is now forced to cut the smaller ones.

      This is the result.

  3. Native says:

    The recycled material could make a profit. Everywhere else in the world uses it for highways maintenance. Here, the glass is recycled, then left in a big pile. Perhaps drop a line to W&E to find out why they don’t use it for highway repairs?

    • Hmmm says:

      How is soda cans used for highyway maintenance?

      • Native says:

        The example I gave for highway maintenance was glass, not soda cans.

        • hmmm says:

          How do they use the glass for highways?

          • Native says:

            If it’s crushed to the correct size, and it is at the facility we already have, then it can be used as an aggregate substitute, or in the base layer. An example is here http://rmrc.wisc.edu/ug-mat-waste-glass/

            There is already a huge pile at the Government Quarry recycling facility, but for some reason the highways guys refuse to use it, despite it being used successfully worldwide. The finely crushed glass runs through your fingers like sand. Pretty impressive really, and should save a huge amount of money currently being spent on importing materials.

            • @ Native: You’re absolutely correct when stating if we were to crush glass it can be used in resurfacing the roads…It’s being / been used in so called 3rd World countries for years.(Remember, glass also comes from sand.)

  4. Frank says:

    I was told on a visit of the plant last year they are not paid for anything they send overseas!

  5. Vote for Me says:

    This is another knee jerk reaction to cost savings.

    Bermuda is barely on the road of recycling. Stopping what little we do is a definite mistake!! Just imagine the lngterm damage we will do to the environment if we do not only recycle but maintain the psychological need to reduce reuse and recycle.

    Green Rock, BEST, Ms. Flood and the sustainable development stakeholders – please rescue us from this serious mistake.

    • Creamy says:

      “Bermuda is barely on the road to recycling”.
      I think you just answered your own question.

  6. Stand Up says:

    Privatize!

  7. Whistling Frog says:

    Its a crying shame how the government don’t allow for the recycling of metal, rubber, plastic. The amount of parts for cars, trucks, buses etc. that get cut to be thrown in the ocean at the airport dump. People are there on a daily bases looking for parts of all sorts but the operators waste no time into smashing up everything before folk can get to them and deliberately it seems… Its a crying shame nothing will be done about this…

  8. Let's think about this... says:

    Things I know the Materials Facility recycles: Car and Truck Batteries, Toner, Computers, Electronic Waste (Cell phones, speakers, TVs, things that has Mercury, Lead, Copper,and other chemicals), Tin, Alumninum and Gas.

    Where Bermuda used to put these things: Marsh Folly (yup that place was a real Marsh when my granny was little), The Airport Dump (yes in the water in Castle Harbour and covered with sand. And then we swim nearby and fish the marine life for eating….hmmmm

    Melting alumnimum and tin….causes problems to the mechanics of Tyne’s Bay, the Waste to Energy facility. Are we cutting one thing to drive up the cost and inefficiencies of another.

    April 1 I’m using my PATI rights to look at the evidence that was used to make this decision.