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Big bucks on garbage

Minister of Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe

It will cost US $400 million to turn Vaucluse, St. Thomas into the island’s centre for waste disposal and waste-to-energy generation.

This figure was revealed by Minister of Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe at a press briefing on International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer this morning at his Hincks Street, the City office.

The minister explained that Barbados’ Integrated Solid Waste Management Programme included a modernisation of the waste disposal strategy to phase out the practice of a landfill and replace it was a conversion from waste to energy, with additional elements of solar and wind power in the mix.

“One of the big concerns that we’ve had is the disposal of chemical and medical waste and how that is going to be handled within the context of where we are. I think we have come up with a solution that is of international standard and that is the gasification of waste to convert into energy which takes care of some of these issues Ricky [Rickardo] Ward, project manager of the National Ozone Unit] has mentioned.”

This approach, which he referred to as the most advanced in the Caribbean currently, was at the planning phase, but once operational those elements that could be recycled would be and others would be converted to gas.

“I think our approach is one of the most modern in the region. It is costing the Government almost US $400 million to set up the entire plant to get those things done. It gives us the option of not having to [bother] ourselves with those elements of waste disposal in Barbados that we would not in the past have been able to dispose of successfully,” said Lowe.

The waste disposal strategy at Vaucluse, he said, would involve four components — waste to energy; landfill gas to energy; solar and wind energy.

“[W]e have chosen the gasification process as opposed to incineration because incineration still produces a residue that can be considered toxic and will still have to be stored in an area, in a landfill at the same site.

“So we are not looking to that type of technology. We are looking to gasification technology which really breaks the waste down almost to zero, of course with the exception of conversion to gas or of the gas to steam that would power some of the same equipment at the location.

“The second is the landfill gas to energy programme and this is where Government has chosen to focus on the extraction of trapped gases at existing landfill [cells] one, two, 3A and 3B, and there is an appreciable amount of gas trapped under the surface because of the years of storage of gas. That is actually now going to be extracted out through the landfill gas-to-energy programme and converted to usable material.”

Along with the solar farms which will be established on the decommissioned landfills which will be capped with a green cover and covered with solar panels, and the wind turbines that will be established, the environment minister said the system would produce about 34MW of energy.

Asked about financing, he responded: “Most of these large capital projects are projects that are private sector/Government partnership arrangements, where the proponent brings the capital. The Government sets up an arrangement where the plants are built and commissioned, then over the life of the plant the proponent gets back their capital.

“We’ve actually started the programme when we decommissioned, what is known as Mount Stinkaroo and put cell four in place, which is the intermediary cell which will allow us the time to get the new systems up and running while we still have someplace to store waste. So the programme is in train. I’ve had several meetings over yesterday with a number of different people looking at how we are going to form up this agreement based on our technological agreements and so on.”

The identity of those partners, he said, would be revealed to the public in time. (LB)

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