Being able to calculate our environmental footprint, and then take action to reduce it over time is fundamental to sustainability. Measuring electricity and water consumption is relatively easy with metering, but quantifying the amount of material waste can sometimes be difficult, especially for small businesses in remote locations.
Mike Green is a Green Globe independent auditor in Belize, Central America and along with our members there has devised some simple strategies to get a handle on waste output and then how to recycle or reuse it. Mike has found that our Belize members don’t have access to large machinery for disposal. Additionally, local waste management companies have limited processing capacity. These challenges have inspired creative solutions and the most important tip before you start tackling your waste stream is to make sure all materials are completely separated.
Glass and Bottles:
- Many properties donate glass bottles to local farmers and other people for recycling for honey, wine, pepper sauce, etc. Glass is also recycled in on-site art projects or given to local artists.
- Glass can be crushed in a commercial glass crusher or even crushed manually (be careful with this option). Once crushed and placed in containers or bags, these containers are weighed then recorded. Volume of containers in cubic meters can also be determined instead of weighing. Once the weight/volume of a full bag/container is determined, this amount can be re-used for recording future volumes without actually weighing each container again.
- Bottles can also be weighed without crushing.
- Crushed glass is then used as fill or mix material in concrete foundations and sidewalks, etc. or in art projects.
Metal Cans :
- Cans can be crushed in a manual crusher to reduce volume. There are also motorized crushers that can be utilized although these machines can be expensive for small properties.
- The crushed cans are then placed in containers, usually barrels or empty feed sacks, and weighed. Again, volume in cubic meters can also be determine.
- Crushed cans are then sent to the regional recycling centers.
- Crushed cans can also be used as fill material in foundations and sidewalks, etc.
- Paper and cardboard can be bagged/bundled and weighed just like other waste materials before being sent to recycling centers.
- One resort uses flattened cardboard boxes as ground cover between the rows of vegetables at their organic farm. This helps prevent the growth of weeds and reduces the need for herbicides, helps reduce water evaporation, and will decompose into the soil.
- Plastics seem to be the most difficult waste material to weigh. Compacting in a commercial compactor makes this job easier and reduces mass. Again it is just a process of bundling the plastics and weighing before sending to a recycling center.
Another way to determine the amount of waste material being hauled off is to measure the size of the truck or trailer bed in cubic meters. The driver can then just record the number of full or partial loads and this can then be converted to total cubic meters. This method is not completely accurate but will provide a fairly close estimate.
And don’t forget organic wastes from restaurants that are given to local farmers for animal feed can also be estimated by determining the size of the container being used then recording the number of containers.
For more practical tips contact:
Mike Green, Green Globe Audior