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New recycling rules under consideration

To use again: maintenance worker Peter Simmons at the recycling collection area at Tyne's Bay (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Fines and warnings for failures to bag garbage in line with recycling rules could be introduced if ministers make greener trash collection compulsory.

Talks are under way with government lawyers to establish if they would prosecute people who failed to comply.

A government spokeswoman said it was considering punishments for people who did not follow the rules if recycling became standard.

She said: “Penalties and warnings will need to be executed if mandatory recycling is implemented.”

A meeting with government lawyers was arranged for earlier this month to discuss their “willingness to prosecute for non-compliance” but it was postponed.

The ministry said that legal meetings were “ongoing”.

A tender process that closed last week sought companies to uplift reusable items and told interested parties the Government was “actively considering mandating recycling”.

Collection arrangements were not expected to change but a government spokeswoman said earlier this month that the Ministry of Public Works was looking at several possibilities for recycling schemes.

She added: “Before implementing any of these new options, feasibility studies and cost-benefit analysis will need to be carried out.

“Recommendations will be considered by the minister after completion of relevant studies.”

The Progressive Labour Party Administration in its 2017 Throne Speech promised to consult on mandatory recycling after a voluntary policy failed to reach “the level of success originally intended”.

The Government also pledged to eliminate single-use plastics by 2022 in last year’s Throne Speech and said that “the intervening years will be spent educating the community about recycling and reusable items”.

A spokeswoman said last month that the ministry was committed to ensuring recycling in Bermuda was a priority.

She pointed out that Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, had announced the Government’s intention to produce a discussion paper on the issue before any decision was taken to make recycling mandatory.

A recent request for quotations for recyclable materials collection outlined the procedure for how crews would be expected to deal with incorrectly bagged waste.

It said teams would examine the contents of blue bags for tin, aluminium cans and glass bottles to check if more than 5 per cent was unsuitable for recycling.

The document added: “If an excess of non-recyclable material is in the bag, it should be left at the collection area, the location noted and an explanatory sticker applied to the bag.”

The Government would be notified of cases of non-compliance.

A spokeswoman said it was believed that the public backed recycling but were unaware of what were acceptable items.

The RFQ also advised: “Proponent should be aware that the Bermuda Government has intent to promote more recycling and volumes may increase sooner than predicted in the scope of works.”

It said the average weight of recyclable materials set out each week was about 18 to 20 tonnes but the volumes could increase to up to 65 tonnes by the third year of the contract.

Vendors were warned the figures depended on participation rates and whether the contractor was successful in selling its services to commercial entities, which was an option open as long as the ministry was advised and it did not incur extra cost to the Government.

The RFQ added that the Government was considering the use of wheelie bins or crates for residents to dispose of their reusable materials.

Recyclable goods will be collected from households throughout Bermuda as well as public docks, schools, government institutions and about 80 bus stop bins under the agreement.

The waste will be taken to the material recovery centre at the Government Quarry in Hamilton Parish.

Metals such as steel and aluminium will be shipped to the United States, where they will be melted down into sheet metal and reused.

The government website said: “Recyclables are subject to market fluctuations, so the ability to hold these materials on island aids the ministry by allowing shipments when market prices are high.

“Glass is used on-island as a drainage medium in road works, backfill and landscaping projects.”

It was estimated that companies would offer quotes of about $250,000 a year for the new contract, which is due to start at the end of next month.

Jonathan Starling, an environmentalist and former executive director of environmental organisation Greenrock, said increased recycling would improve efficiency at the material recovery centre and at trash pickups.

He explained: “At the moment, with people putting recyclable materials into the regular trash, it increases the overall amount of trash needing to be collected, which, with an already stressed fleet, can lead to inefficiencies.

“By those materials being put out as recyclables the trash collection can be more efficient overall, leading to better waste management.”

Mr Starling backed compulsory recycling but said consultation was needed.

He added: “There might be some hiccups initially but after a couple of weeks I think we’ll all adjust to it.”

Colonel Burch met senior members of the waste management team on Wednesday to review survey responses from frontline workers and hear information on weekly collection figures, waste production levels and an overview of the recycling schedule.

He said a full update about waste collection plans for 2019 would be released soon.