Eyesore: Crushed cars at the airport dump *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Eyesore: Crushed cars at the airport dump *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, OCT. 26: BEST’s Blueprint on sustainable development aims to outline what it means to be a sustainable community and what it will take to get there.

Over the coming weeks the Bermuda Sun will continue publishing the text of the Blueprint, section by section.

Our waste is a problem that simply will not go away! Headlines from the newspapers and various reports reveal a relentless story of the cost of waste to the environment and the public purse, including this sampling:

• ‘$12.9 million contract for a steam turbine generator’

• ‘Asbestos abatement plan for Morgan’s Point’

• ‘Incinerators Highly Toxic Pollutants exceed permitted level by four times’

• ‘Inferno on Pembroke Dump’

• ‘Seven tons of garbage pulled from the Island’s shoreline’

• ‘Overflowing sewerage shuts down Pembroke business’

• ‘In order to cut costs, residential recycling will now be picked up once every two weeks’

• ‘Moving Stockpiled Garbage will cost $780,000’

• ‘Pollution at Airport Dump causes concern”

• ‘The perils of plastic in our ocean’

• ‘Report outlines options for asbestos removal’

• ‘Millions of dollars are spent annually picking up litter and controlling the resulting rates and mosquitoes’.

On a more positive note, a recent Government report indicates a reduction in waste and an increase in recycling, with e-waste leading the way.

We note, however, that while only 11 per cent of Bermuda’s waste goes into landfill, and electricity is generated by burning waste at Tynes Bay Waste-to-energy plant, many resources that could be reused or recycled are permanently lost in the process.

Waste Management

Waste management is a substantive and growing environmental issue for Bermuda. Our per-capita consumption of products ranks with some of the most affluent of industrial nations.

 Attending that level of consumption, Bermuda’s rate of waste generation is also quite high. 

Some of our methods of handling waste have room for improvement. Bermuda is currently storing more asbestos per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

We also discharge up to a million gallons of raw sewage into the ocean each day due to very limited sewage treatment facilities.

We provide limited recycling opportunities and recently reduced collection of recyclables by half. We deposit used cars and appliances, reportedly an average of 700 truckloads of waste a week, at the ocean’s edge as managed ‘landfill’.

 Research done by the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) has shown high levels of metals, PCBs, PAH and dioxin in sediments within 80m of this facility.

Such findings highlight the importance of addressing our waste issues, both for human and ecosystem health.

Bermuda’s relative wealth, its reliance on imports and the global growth in cheap disposable products and consumer lifestyles, exacerbates our waste management problems.

Disposing of waste is economically expensive and, where products are not disposed of appropriately, the environmental costs can be great. We have done little to legislate against the importation of cheaply made and highly disposable goods and we have spent little on communicating with the public on better product choices and disposal practices.

The Tynes Bay Incinerator currently handles Bermuda’s general solid waste. The plant is slated for expansion or replacement to accommodate a volume of waste that was unforeseen just twenty years ago when it was constructed.

While we cannot stop the flow of waste, we can reduce both the quantity and hazardous content associated with it by seeking viable opportunities to reduce, re-use and recycle and educating the public about these opportunities and their importance.

We can favour imports that use less packaging or more environmentally-friendly packaging, encourage the use of non-toxic household products, and foster a second-hand market to limit the disposal of potentially useful items.  We can limit or halt the importation of troublesome products — plastic bags, for example, that are now either restricted or completely banned in over a quarter of the world’s countries.

BEST recognizes the scale, complexity and cost involved in formulating and executing a comprehensive waste management strategy. However, by improving existing waste-handling processes and programmes, and expanding communication with the public, Bermuda can avoid the greater costs to ecological and public health.

• This document was researched and written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell.
In the next issue: Energy — our enormous carbon footprint, can we become sustainable?