Economic boost from energy ideas

LOCAL non-profit organisation Design Council SIDS Think Design has big plans for Barbados to become a leading bio-economy and to reach its 100 percent Renewable Energy target by 2030.

Headed by innovator Mark Hill, the company is already working with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy to seek to change the mindset of Barbadians through campaigns promoting the ban on single use plastics and getting feedback through surveys.

Noting that the ban on single use plastics is a major step forward for Barbados, Hill explained that efforts are underway to devise more high-tech solutions that would take even more plastics out of the waste stream while at the same time producing energy. He noted that 91 per cent of plastics are not recyclable. His comments came during a recent sensitisation workshop hosted by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

He explained that through a process called pyrolysis, the energy content of the plastics, which are fossil-fuel based, can be extracted since they are of high calorific, value which would be converted into synthetic gas.

“So we will be doing a 25 megawatt plant costing around US$17 million, and that plant is going to take about 25 tonnes per day of plastics. These are the plastics, not just addressed by the ban, but also those single use plastics that are not recyclable.” These he noted include other plastics like the wrappers in which snacks are contained. “That is not PET. So that can’t be recycled.”

“So all those other packaging that are not recyclable will go through the machine and be converted to synthetic gas and something called carbon black, which we could then export out and earn foreign exchange.” He added that with this process it is anticipated that 200 new jobs would be created.

As it relates to how persons would discard their food waste, bearing in mind they will no longer be able to use plastic bags, he noted that his organisation has another solution. “So what the Design Council looked at is not so much the case of how do we just a ban and educate, but this is a real problem. So if people don’t have these plastic bags to put this food waste and are waiting for the garbage truck to collect, what do you do?” he posed.

“We are looking at a food waste biogas plant, which will take that separated stuff and use it to produce biogas and then produce one megawatt of electricity. So basically we tie it back into the 100 per cent renewable energy target that we have as a country and then treating to the plastics and the food waste and some of the waste as a resource for generating energy and export product.”
Hill said the due diligence has been carried out and assured that the Ministry does not have to worry about financing since most of it is already in place.

He said his NGO is partnering with a company in Sweden, which is one of the biggest biogas plant producers in the world. “What we really need is for Barbadians to start to separate and into the culture and practice of separating their organic food and putting it into separate bins.” He stressed that a food truck, not a garbage truck, would be collecting that waste.

He said that a biogas plant producing one megawatt of electricity would be very useful for the country and revealed plans for a few of these “small projects” to be rolled out in the near future. “We are hoping that behind these projects that we push forward, because 24 tonnes per day is not much in terms of plastics; this includes car bumpers and all the computer parts that can’t be shipped back out and the plastic parts, televisions, polystyrene that is in the fridges, all of that can go through the pyrolysis.”

Noting that Town Planning Department will be their biggest hurdle, he anticipates that by August of this year, some smaller scale food waste biogas facilities will be on the island. “So that as some communities begin to sort the waste that we can start to take in their stuff as early as maybe August 2019.”

He stressed that from the NGO/private sector perspective, he is keen on working with the government to make this vision a reality. (JH)

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