Progressing initiatives for waste management

14 March 2018

Infrastructure Cook Islands is pleased to announce the recruitment of a Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA) person as the Ministries first dedicated Waste Programme Coordinator, under the WATSAN Division to support strategic activities aimed at zero waste to landfill.  The Ministry aims to turn the position into a permanent role to assist with the implementation of activities under the Solid Waste Management Strategy.

Hilary Boyes hails from Wanaka in New Zealand and has had much experience overseas in progressing waste management initiatives, notably in Vancouver Canada for setting up organic waste collection for composting purposes and as an on-site coordinator during the construction of a large natural gas project site in Australia. Boyes will be with the Ministry for six months and has three activities to get through which are, a cost benefit analysis for glass crushing, Advanced Disposal Fee details and the pre-pay bag concept for roadside collection.  This work also ties in with strategic planning for preparing for Cook Islands graduation from donor funding and National Sustainable Development Goals.

The Ministry asks the public to separate glass bottles however the glass cannot be sent away as the international value is too low. Instead the bottles are used as cover for the landfill and crushed glass from a small single bottle feed crusher as fill on driveways.  The industrial crushing idea has been floating around for some time and the private sector has some great initiatives like Brad and Ngere from Brad’s Auto Body Repairs having their own crusher and using cullet sized crushed glass in pavers and in the construction of their home.  Andy Olah of Timberland also approached the Ministry about glass crushing and has been a long-time proponent for repurposing glass bottles.  All these local real life examples for glass crushing will contribute to the analysis.  Malcolm Sword of General Transport is also providing some technical advice in this project and is a strong advocate on the importance of turning waste into a resource. “We want to action all the talk and get serious about repurposing waste which is a major objective of the Waste Strategy” says Jaime Short of WATSAN. 

Another issue the Ministry wants to address through this initiative is the mining of sand for construction purposes.  The rate of natural production of sand is much slower than extraction which means using sand as aggregate in concrete is unsustainable especially in small islands.  “The continued mining of sand with the holes being filled with soil and worse still, hazardous waste that is often reported dumped in these holes will have disastrous effects on lagoon and human health” adds Short. 

“By crushing glass into the particle size of sand, the glass can be substituted for sand in concreting and leave the sand where it belongs” says Boyes.  “Speaking with experts in concreting they advise that coral sand isn’t actually ideal for concreting and crushed glass is the preferred option” she adds.

In the 18/19 budget bidding the Ministry is vying for an industrial glass crusher and the findings of the analysis will ensure the correct size of crusher is purchased and that parts are easily obtainable.  “The long term view is to have this operation taken over by the private sector and we do hope that it can be a profitable venture to attract a private sector operator.  We also hope that it will create more attention and action on realising that waste actually is a resource” says Ngametua Pokino, Secretary of ICI.