Sustainable waste management at the Island School begins inside the Tingum Center. The open-air storage bay is home to glass bottles, tin cans, warped cardboard, and other discarded articles. The majority of these items, in keeping with our environmental ethos, will be reused or repurposed into new, useful materials. This blog provides an overview of our recycling process, one that is unique to our Family Island context. In sharing this information, we hope individuals and organizations across The Bahamas will be better equipped to implement recycling practices into their everyday lives.
Recycling is the practice of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away and turning them into new products. The benefits of recycling are countless, from reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills to conserving natural resources and helping create jobs. Despite these advantages, however, most of the waste produced throughout the Caribbean is not recycled but accumulates in landfills. These sites are often in close proximity to groundwater aquifers, posing health risks to adjacent communities while contributing to the spread of vermin and climate change effects caused by gaseous emissions.
Our regional over-reliance on landfills can be attributed to several factors, from a lack of waste processing infrastructure to a dearth of statistics on waste production – data which could inform worthwhile policy reforms. It is also likely due to our relatively small economies and fragmented populations. These are factors which often make waste management strategies like recycling economically unviable. Nevertheless, more conscious strides toward recycling are crucial as, according to the OAS, the improper management of waste poses a serious threat to environmental and public health in the Caribbean.
How We Recycle
At the Island School, we practice sustainable waste management primarily by recycling. We recycle glass, metal, cardboard, food waste, garments and certain plastics. The collection, processing and repurposing of these materials is overseen by our Waste Management Technician, Deon Armbrister, though all students and staff play a role in the recycling process. Below is an explanation of how each type of waste is repurposed.
Much of the glass we receive comes in the form of bottles or jars. Ordinarily, glass is broken down in a glass crusher to later be used for construction and decorative purposes. Members of the Island School community also repurpose glass containers to house miscellaneous items such as their morning coffee, office stationery or mangrove propagules.
Every few weeks, we send aluminium cans to Cans 4 Kids, a non-profit in Nassau that raises funds for schools and youth organizations through recycling programs.
The farm team uses tin cans and other scrap metal containers for a variety of purposes, though primarily as vessels to grow seedlings or for smoke pots to repel mosquitoes.
Cardboard & Food waste
Cardboard and paper are shredded to be placed in the compost. Six parts shredded cardboard are combined with one part food waste – coffee grounds from office kitchenettes, for instance – to best facilitate decomposition. The broken-down organic matter is then used as fertiliser to nourish our crops. Cardboard is also used as mulch, particularly in the orchard, where it helps the soil to retain moisture and stunts weed growth.
In addition to composting, food waste from the dining hall is used to feed livestock – pigs in our case – and in worm buckets, where black soldier fly larvae are bred to feed our chickens and fish.
Clothing, accessories, and other used items are collected in the Tingum Center to be upcycled. This form of creative reuse gives many items that would otherwise be discarded a second life.
We partner with Cans 4 Kids to recycle plastics 1, 2 & 5. We are also exploring recycling options for plastics 3,4,6 & 7, which cannot be recycled at this time.
What You Can Do
As an individual, there are many small steps you can take toward sustainable waste management.
- Follow this guide to easily start your own compost at home.
- Try one of these tips to reduce the amount of waste you produce.
- Read up on other sustainable strategies on one of our previous blogs.
- Research recycling options in your area, whether by looking online or asking a member of your community. Keen to learn more about recycling in The Bahamas? This article shares past and ongoing efforts while Wastenot Bahamas provides details for green waste collection and recycling in Nassau. For more information on waste management at the regional level, explore this publication by the IDB.
- Lastly, exercise your imagination by finding new ways to repurpose old or damaged belongings.
Written by Ethan Knowles.