‘Barbadians are being told to see the ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam products as an opportunity for them to step up to the plate and create new opportunities.
In fact, pointing out that converting waste to energy should be the next natural step for the country, design technologist and green energy advocate Mark Hill told Barbados TODAY it was time Barbadians come up with innovative ideas.
“We have became so developed because we are using these ‘modern things’, now we have to step back and recognize that some of our heritage practices were sustainable and useful and we need to revisit them and develop them,” said Hill, who recalled decades ago getting some food items in paper bags.
“It doesn’t mean that we are taking you backwards, but we are going forward with the wisdom that our grandparents had and expanding on it,” he said.
Stating that the necessary funding was available for innovative ideas, Hill insisted that with the April 1 ban, new businesses should be created and existing ones find new ways of doing things in an effort to meet impending demands.
“There is a massive opportunity when it comes to waste management particularly because of this ban that is coming. It can open up doors to companies starting with bio-based packaging, bio-based food facilities to sell spoons, forks, straws and stuff like that. So we can see a percentage of companies going in that direction,” he explained.
“Also those existing manufacturers cannot just retool, but they can use other bio-based resin to produce their plastics. I know some folks might say ‘plastic is plastic’, but once it is breaking down and can break down in a composting way and through a biological way, it is fine,” he added.
Hill, who is in the process of officially opening a spacious biotech campus for individuals seeking to carry out research, improve their knowledge and develop their skills in the area, said the separation of garbage should become a practice among the population.
He also wants to see residents better dispose of their waste.
“Food waste – separating and sorting at source, is going to be an important step for Barbadians next,” said Hill.
“That is something that every household and business can practise, so that you are now taking that food waste and converting it to energy. So that food waste can go into the same bio-digesters and produce natural gas that can supply us for cooking or for transport. We have enough organic waste on the island to make a considerable contribution to the renewable energy mix,” he said.
The waste-to-energy promoter told Barbados TODAY his wish was for the island to be able to convert plastics into carbon black and become the biggest exporter of that product in the region, earning the island foreign exchange.
Another opportunity, he said, was converting plastics into synthetic gas.
“Single-use plastics and even biodegradable plastic can be broken down but we can also put them through a paralysis process and that process can take those very same plastics and turn them back into a hydrocarbon (chief components of natural gas),” he said.
“So now you are participating in something that is circular. That hydrocarbon can be used in transport on one side and then produce something else called activated carbon on the next, which can come back to soil amendments or we export into the manufacturing space. So things are heading in the right direction. But we have to get Barbadians out of their comfort zones and into experimenting and trying to think differently,” said Hill.
He added that while policies and legislation would be necessary for facilitation, he believed the innovation and creativity were needed first.
“In a nutshell, having looked at the innovation, look at its impacts, scope it out and then you determine what is the policy and framework to get it to help grow,” he said.
He said the new model going forward in dealing with development in the waste-to-energy space should be focused on the process to be used instead of the tools needed.