Breaking New Ground in Managing Waste
In Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like The Bahamas, resource management presents challenges that directly impact our environmental health and sustainable socioeconomic development. At the Cape Eleuthera Institute, one of our pivotal research areas seeks to investigate how we manage one of our most valuable resources, waste, and challenge our actions to live well in a place. By conducting research on how waste interacts in our supply chain, we can better understand our consumption to model sustainable resource management solutions.
As an organization, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and having a minimal impact on the environment. Our goal is to be entirely responsible for the waste we generate without reliance on public landfills, which is the primary solution for waste in The Bahamas, especially the Family Islands. Due to the nature of The Bahamian economy as net-importers for food, supplies and general goods, we inadvertently generate waste, which stresses municipal landfill management. We employ the principles of zero-waste (Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Rot) as the core of our campus operation and research. We do this by:
- Waste categorization — Critical to our campus, we implement waste education and sorting infrastructure to efficiently audit our waste streams. From this data, we determine innovative waste treatment processes compatible with our environment, and work to pilot a municipal recycling program.
- Ecosystem restoration and conservation — Often, waste is discarded in marginal land (wetlands) which hold biodiversity in flora and fauna. Our aim is to restore designated wasteland into a green corridor to encourage native revegetation, climate resilience and long-term carbon sequestration.
In nature, the kingdom of fungi are considered primary decomposers, which degrade and recycle organic waste into nutrients to sustain natural food webs. Our researchers leverage fungi as an innovative tool to integrate waste management to contribute to local food security. We do this by cultivation of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) on organic waste substrates such as invasive Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia) and cardboard. Relative to all its agricultural counterparts, oyster mushrooms do not require significant natural resource inputs such as freshwater, synthetic fertilizers and soil.
Plant-based fiber (lignocellulosic biomass) is one of the most abundant renewable resources, however, it is often generated as waste locally as agricultural waste or cardboard. Our research lab seeks to adopt fiber-processing technologies to upcycle green waste into value-added sustainable materials. We strive to be a hub and library of innovation for locally produced biomaterials for industrial design and packaging applications.