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Hawaiian expert to share ways to reduce waste during BUEI talk

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Rafael Bergstrom, foreground, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, pictured with his team members (Photograph supplied)

Imagine a Cup Match, Bermuda Day or National Heroes Weekend where virtually no waste was created that could not be reused, recycled or composted.

All trash cans at the events would be separated for the depositing of different types of materials, the organisers would have an environmentally centred ethos and all the businesses that participated would serve predominantly reusable, recyclable or compostable wares.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii hosts these kind of large scale events with minimum impact on the environment and its executive director Rafael Bergstrom is to share with Bermuda how it is done.

He will be speaking virtually at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute this Saturday as part of its Island SOS environmental series.

Mr Bergstrom will speak about how waste is diverted away from the landfill through various waste management initiatives that can be adopted in Bermuda and the world over.

He said: “We have been working on waste diversion for about nine years and the idea is we in Hawaii are an island and have very limited space for our waste.

“We started working with a World Surf League run event that is sponsored by Vanz. Pipe Masters is the championship of the surf season – the premium event – and happens here.

“It starts with those who are organising the events or participating in them, it’s talking to the suppliers and businesses about what they bring on site – definitely no single use plastics. We set up our waste diversion stations, which separates out what is used at the events to trash, recycling and compost.

“The idea is that over time that there should be nothing in the trash bin and everything is repurposed, recycled or composted.

“We went from a waste diversion rate of 30 to 40 per cent up to 70 per cent, so 70 per cent of the waste at the event is diverted from the landfill or incinerator. The goal over time is to have 100 per cent waste diversion at the events.”

Mr Bergstrom said that Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii had purchased large composting machines that were able to turn organic waste created at events into healthy soils. The vessel is inside a shipping container which has a churning drill to turn the compost and allow oxygen in.

He said: “At scale, it is very challenging. It can be messy and takes a lot of hands-on work. We brought in a mini-industrial composting machine, which is a cool piece of technology.

“It creates really healthy soil through a rapid process and mitigates issues of odours and pests as it is contained.

“This is our first year using it, we are still experimenting and want to do soil tests and toxicity test of items. Composting is something that will take the world by storm. Climate scientists say regenerating soils is so important in creating healthy soils that can draw carbon out of the air.

“The machine is great for small islands – they can be issued in many locations like schools, hotels, farm land. It also creates resiliency by regenerating soil that helps to grow food and reduces reliance on importing food.”

Mr Bergstrom said modern society was plagued with a “culture of convenience”, where items are bought, used once and thrown away. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii has a strong educational element that aims to move away from such practices.

“There is education around what we do that tells the story of what is recyclable and compostable. In Honolulu, in particular, we have a nasty contract with the waste to energy plant, which is solving the issue of space but has created a bad reliance – it requires a certain amount of waste to be created to meet the financial goals of building and maintaining the plant.

“What we are doing at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii can be replicated anywhere whether on an island or a continent. It is a thought process of being conscientious of what materials we use at events and moving our population away from that convenience culture.”

Tickets to the talk, which takes place on Saturday at 4pm, are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Anyone interested in attending should e-mail info@buei.bm or call BUEI’s Ocean Gift Shop at 294-0204 to reserve a space.

Plastic pollution can be reduced by less of a reliance on the culture of convenience, says Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii (Photograph supplied)

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Published March 24, 2022 at 7:41 am (Updated March 24, 2022 at 7:41 am)

Hawaiian expert to share ways to reduce waste during BUEI talk

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