Saba has exported more than 1 million US pounds in recyclables in 12 months, from March 2021 until March 2022. The recyclable materials were exported to the United States and handled at a waste management facility there. Combined with the last shipment of March 2022, a total of 1,0132,209 pounds in recyclables were transported off the island in containers.
The vast majority of the export, about 70 percent, was plastics, of which 10 percent are bottles and caps. The rest, 60 percent, are miscellaneous plastics. All types of plastic can be recycled as long as they fit in the orange waste container which every household has for the purpose of collecting recyclables.
Cardboard makes up 24 percent of the amount which was exported, metal cans about 3 percent and aluminum cans 1 percent. Even though 3 and 1 percent may not seem much, it is still important to separate and recycle these cans to prevent having to burn them. Saba also exports metals on a regular basis. Large metal objects, such as cars and zinc sheets, are exported with bulk shipments.
The recyclable materials (plastics, cans and cardboard) are compressed and placed in large bags or tied together in bundles, and stored in the containers at the waste management facility to await export for further processing.
However, exporting recyclables is expensive and yields very little or no profit. In most cases, the sale of the recyclable materials does not yield a sufficient return to counteract the cost of shipping. The export of recyclable materials since its start before 2018 has been increasing drastically, and the Public Entity Saba has been struggling with allocating the necessary funding to pay for the export and to cover the structural costs of operating the waste management facility.
Despite considerable investments made over the years at the waste management facility by the local government and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW), there is still a need for more structural funding.
Recycling contributes to a better environment. Residents are encouraged to sort recyclable materials at home and deposit these in the orange bin. “We should make recycling a way of life,” said Camilo Usuga, the new Waste Management Manager who is taking over from Coulton Johnson.
Sorting at home and depositing the recyclable materials in the orange bin saves the men at the waste management facility a lot of sorting work. “The better we recycle, the less we have to burn,” said Usaga. As a result of the past and current initiatives, burning the waste has been reduced to once a week.
Over the years waste management on Saba has transitioned greatly, stated Commissioner of Infrastructure Bruce Zagers. “We have evolved from a scenario where there was absolutely no separation of any waste streams, where everything was being burnt together. Now we export more than 1 million pounds of recyclable materials per year and burning of only organic waste happens once per week in a controlled manner in a state-of-the-art open-air burner. This is real progress,” he said.
According to the Commissioner, the transition hasn’t been easy. “It took longer than any of us wanted or expected. And, we still face considerable challenges such as structural funding for the continuity of the project and the ever-increasing export costs. This transition is still a work in progress as we aim to further improve our processes with the end goal of having a sustainable waste management system,” said Zagers.
The contents of the waste containers are collected separately at the homes and businesses. There is a pick-up schedule for the black (for non-recyclable waste) and orange container on separate days. The open-back truck collects large items, such as white goods and cardboard, on a regular schedule.
A first Home Chemical Recycling Center has been installed at the Juliana’s Sports Field in The Bottom, where people can dispose of chemical items, such as large batteries, car batteries, paint, light bulbs and small electronics, in a responsible way. A second Home Chemical Recycling Center is coming to the Windwardside soon.