New solid waste transfer station underway in San Pedro

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Work on the construction of a garbage transfer station on Ambergris Caye has commenced in the Marina Area south of San Pedro Town. The garbage transfer station is a part of the national Solid Waste Management Project (SWMP) which will see the garbage generated on the island transferred to mainland Belize for proper disposal. The Government of Belize (GOB) proposed to implement the project over a four-year period starting in 2009. The actual project is expected to be fully functional in early 2013.

After obtaining all legal licenses and permits from the Department of Environment, mangrove clearance has commenced with dredging and land fill to follow shortly thereafter. The preliminary site layout will include an administrative building with ample parking area and suitable access to the site. There will also be a transfer/loading building in which the collection trucks will discharge the garbage onto a tipping floor. It will be at that stage that recyclables contained in the garbage will be recovered by the waste pickers and bailed. A storage area will also be constructed to store the bailed recyclables recovered from the transfer loading building. There will also be a Material Drop-off Facility. Once sorted, residual garbage (garbage left after sorting) will then be barged to the mainland and hauled to mile 24 on the Western Highway at the Regional Sanitary Landfill for final disposal. Upon completion the SWMP transfer station in San Pedro Town will sit on a total of 2.5 acres of land.

With the rapid development and an increase in population, San Pedro Town has been generating more garbage adding pressure to the current garbage disposal system. Currently most of the garbage generated by the island is taken to a dump site on southern Ambergris Caye. Once there all the garbage is regularly burned, creating a thick cloud of smoke over the southern portion of the island and causing serious health and environmental concerns. But with the implementation of the SWMP, it is expected that the current garbage disposal system on the island will be discontinued. According to Technical Environmental Specialist for the SWMP Ramy Chia, this year alone, it is expected that Ambergris Caye will generate some 3,480 short tons of solid waste from commercial and residential usage. One short ton is equivalent to about 2,000 lbs. so 3,480 short tons will be approximately seven million lbs. It is projected that by the year 2030 the island would be generating approximately 8,173 short tons of garbage per year or 37.5 million lbs. per year.

How will the transfer station work exactly? According to Chia the waste will be collected as per normal by the municipality and taken to the Transfer Station. While at the transfer station plastic, glass, metal and other recoverable materials will be removed and stored until there is a large amount for transportation off the island and sold. The residual garbage will be loaded into containers for later transfer to Belize City for further disposal at the mile 24 landfill site. On the site, there will also be large color coded bins for businesses and residents who dispose of their garbage directly to the site.

The total cost of the project on Ambergris Caye will be $991,668 US which includes the decommissioning (closing down) of the current dump site, dredging for adequate water access to the transfer station, construction of access road and the building of the facility of the transfer station. The operational cost of the project will be financed by the GOB through the environmental tax currently charged when someone exits the country.

The San Pedro Town Council currently uses roughly nine acres of privately owned land to dispose of the island’s garbage for which it pays a rental fee of $1,000 each month.

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