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Incinerator burning ‘dirty’ recyclables

The Tynes Bay incinerator on North Shore

The island’s incinerator is burning dirty recyclables that cannot be processed by the recycling plant.

According to Keep Bermuda Beautiful’s executive director, the Material Recovery Facility in Hamilton Parish is not equipped to handle severely contaminated tin, aluminium and glass.

However, Anne Hyde stressed that these materials were likely “just a drop in the bucket” compared to the recyclables that are not separated from regular waste before being discarded at Tynes Bay.

This newspaper received reports of tin, aluminium and glass routinely being taken to the waste-to-energy facility as Bermuda remains unable to cope with its recycling load.

And the Bermuda Government admitted that “rejects” and “contaminated recyclables” are sent to Tynes Bay for “thermal destruction”.

In response, environmental charities Greenrock and KBB noted a lack of faith in the recycling system and stressed that more needs to be done to encourage residents to sort their waste.

A government spokeswoman said: “‘Rejects’ and contaminated recyclables — unwashed cans and bottles — are sent to Tynes Bay for thermal destruction. The metals are removed from the ash during the ash processing.

“We typically do not find blue bags in the general waste stream as truckers and the public comply with separation rules and take blue bags to the public drop-off.

“There are inspections which take place at the weighbridge and by staff within the tipping hall to ensure only the correct wastes are being processed by the plant.”

Ms Hyde explained that “unwashed” means “really dirty” items, such as glass bottles from underwater clean-ups that are full of mud, or tins that are half full of food.

“The Materials Recovery Facility does not have the resources (manpower or washing capabilities) to deal with dirty TAG to make it clean and more saleable,” she said.

“So the only solution at this time is to reject it and send those items to the Tynes Bay facility to be burnt.”

While unable to estimate the amount, Ms Hyde made “an educated guess that it isn’t even a drop in the bucket in comparison with what does not get separated out from people’s, companies’, Government’s trash and all the TAG that goes to the Tynes Bay facility inside black trash bags”.

“Less than a third of residential households participate in the Government recycling programme,” she added.

“We can do better than that.”

Ms Hyde explained that Tynes Bay enabled Bermuda to safely dispose of the island’s burnable waste while generating power.

But she explained that the recycling programme focuses on the non-burnables because these “do not burn and reduce Tynes Bay’s ability to efficiently create electricity”.

Jonathan Starling, executive director of Greenrock, added that their presence in the waste stream can “also contribute to breakdowns there, necessitating more frequent repairs”.

Vanese Gordon, the waste-management education and enforcement officer, said in 2009 that “burning cans and bottles detracts from the Tynes Bay Waste to Energy facility’s ability to generate power for Bermuda and contributes to costly breakdowns and inefficiencies in the system that all residents end up paying for”.

Mr Starling added: “Greenrock encourages members of the public to actively recycle TAG, and ensure that TAG materials are removed from black bag trash destined for the incinerator’s waste stream. Recycling helps make waste management in Bermuda much more efficient, reducing the overall cost to the taxpayer, while also contributing to a reduced carbon footprint for Bermuda as a whole.”

Ms Hyde added that recycling was important for sustainability of raw materials, critical for the efficient operation of the incinerator, expected by visitors and harmful to the environment and marine life if not done.

“It’s also so easy to do,” she said, adding that a population-wide mindset change is needed. She also expressed disappointment in the “lack of faith” in Bermuda’s recycling programme.

“It seems that people lose faith if they see one instance of recycling sent to the wrong place, or a government employee who disposes of it at Tynes Bay,” she said.

Ms Hyde and Mr Starling both stressed that education was key and suggested recycling could be made mandatory. Mr Starling also reiterated that a bottle deposit system could work, along with more recycling bins around the island. He also reminded the public to “reduce, reuse and recycle” and encouraged businesses to set up “Green Teams”.

Event organisers could also contact the Green Co-operative for further advice, he added.

And Ms Hyde suggested the Government provide a reliable and transparent recycling service, run a recycling awareness campaign and make data on the results of the recycling efforts public.

KBB also wants to see recycling bins for all public spaces and events, compulsory recycling for certain sectors, and for waste management and parks employees to understand their role in making recycling a success.