A new transfer station replaced the old garbage dump site at mile three and a half on the George Price Highway. The transfer station receives tons of garbage from the city which is recycled and then moved to the mile twenty-four sanitary landfill. It was launched in late July and when News Five revisited the facilities on Thursday it was in full operation. Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Garbage…it is worthless, useless, or unwanted matter that is discarded from homes, businesses and everywhere that trash is produced. It often times accumulates and poses a health hazard. For years, fires broke at the former dump site at mile three and a half on the George Price Highway; its pungent stench affected residents in the immediate area and the unsightly mountains of garbage were an eyesore at the eastern entrance of the City.
But after years of planning and designing by the Solid Waste Management Authority, your garbage now has a new home. A solid waste management facility, referred to as a Sanitary Landfill, was installed at miles twenty-four on the George Price Highway that will process, and for the next eight to ten years, sustainably manage the trash produced in the Belize and Cayo Districts.
This is the process: Trucks from Belize Waste Control and Belize Maintenance Limited on a daily basis collect your garbage and bring it here at the former dumpsite, which has been transformed into Belize City Transfer Station.
As the truckloads of garbage are dumped into various heaps on the floor of the building, some twenty-eight balers sort through the trash. Also referred to as recyclers, their task is to separate metals, plastic bottles and other materials including syringes and hazardous wastes from the garbage. PASA Belize limited is the holder of the contract to operate, haul and ensure the environmentally sound disposal of the waste across the western corridor which includes the cayes, Belize City and San Ignacio.
Efrain Cowo, Transfer Station Manager, PASA Belize Limited
“They sort through the recyclable materials. For example plastic bottles, aluminum cans, metal; everything that can be recycled, they sort it out in this after. After that, they take their recyclable material outside where Belize Recycling Company comes and pick up that stuff and they are paid according to what they get.”
But it’s a time consuming and tedious job for the balers. Prior to the facility, residents, fighting the economic times, would brave the heat rummaging through the dump and looking for items that they can sell…often times coming up empty-handed. But now, some twenty-eight balers are assured of at least a minimum wage for their day’s work. For twenty-six year old Dwayne Dougal, it is livelihood.
Dwayne Dougal, Baler/Recycler, Belize City Transfer Station
“We work by picking up plastics aluminum, copper, glass bottles—Bowen and Bowen, Travellers, Cuellos—we also pick up bottles for Red Stripe and Dragon Stout. We pick up paper also and little things like clothes and stuff that we know personally that we could make a lee extra change on the side.”
“We give these guys their personal protective equipment. They are given the vests, masks and gloves and every Wednesday, we have a briefing with them, with the environmental and safety coordinator. Every Wednesday we have a meeting with them and inform them about the hazards that they can encounter here at the transfer station. We give them information how to handle things; hazardous materials and all those stuff.”
“I dah noh wah person weh know what it is to stand up and rob somebody or be on street corner—I noh raise up like that. I di be real. I noh have no twenties, no thirties. I want be free to walk Belize City and pick up my bottle. So this is what I do and I am happy for it.”
“It allows you to assist your family…”
“Over eight years, I manage to assist my family and my wife and two kids.”
Essentially as the name indicates, the transfer station is just a pit stop. The smaller loads of garbage are compacted into a large container for economic and efficient transportation to the site of the sanitary landfill.
“All the materials that are not recyclable are loaded into those trailers that you saw outside and from there it goes to mile twenty-four where it is put in the sanitary landfill.”
Lumen Cayetano, Senior Technician, Solid Waste Management Authority
“That dumpsite was not properly sited. If you notice it is in a wetland; there is a mangrove swamp around that area so that is generally a poor condition to site disposal sites. This site that you are at the moment, the mile twenty-four regional sanitary landfill site, was subjected to an EIA; it was the alternate site. There were two sites and the mile twenty-seven site became a bit controversial so we fell back to the alternate site which is here at mile twenty-four.”
The top of the line Sanitary Landfill is environmentally sound and its performance is of high standards. It limits certain nuisances and its design confines and contains the emissions from decomposing solid waste through a leaching process. This facility has caught the attention of several CARICOM member states.
“It is well controlled, there are no odors; there are not that many flies. Obviously it is waste; it is garbage at the end of the day so it is associated with certain nuisances like flies. But it is very limited. We are standing here, we are not covering our noses; we are not being bothered by the flies and sold on. So the municipal solid waste cell in our use is being properly operated; it is under control as is obvious here. And then we have the hazardous waste cell that we incorporated into this project. It was not originally a part of the project but we incorporated the hazardous waste cell because we know there is a need to properly manage that type of material. It is not operational at this time; we are working on the protocol in terms of the disposal method that we will be using to contain the materials that will then be placed and stored in the hazardous waste cell.”
The project has been operational since August sixth and in almost two months the garbage is already mounting. Senior technician at the Solid Waste Management Authority, Lumen Cayetano, says that as the years go by, household garbage disposal practices will improve the lifespan of the site.
“We currently dispose of everything from our homes; we do not separate our garbage; we don’t not practice the three R’s principle: reduce, reuse, recycle…so everything literally just gets thrown away. As you can see here with this mountain of garbage behind us, not everything can be removed under those conditions in the transfer stations so one of the things that needs to be done is the optimization, the diversion of more of those materials at the transfer stations before reaching the landfill. And that would certainly add a couple months, if not years, to the life of the landfill cell itself.”
The solid waste management project is tagged at a cost of a little over fourteen million U.S. dollars and includes the construction of the transfer stations and the sanitary landfill. Duane Moody for News Five.
As part of the national solid waste management plan, depending on the success of the current solid waste disposal project in the western corridor, the project is expected to be replicated in the north and south.