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Recycling

What is and isn’t done here

All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. And third it is accepted as self-evident.{b}

Our ability to recycle is restricted, but we do our best

Recycling

Our ability to recycle is limited by our circumstances. We do not have, and cannot have, large-scale recycling plants, for example for things like aluminium: the volumes are too small and our energy costs are too high to justify the cost. We can’t even ship our recycling off to another country because of the cost of transport. So what we can practicably do is always going to be limited. This page discusses what we can and are doing.

SEE ALSO: Read about our use of Renewable Energy and the related subject of Endemic Species.

In descending order of preference:

REDUCE

Reduce consumption of natural resources, e.g. by using less packaging or switching to sustainably sourced materials.

REUSE

Use products more than once. Refill containers rather than disposing of them. Always observe published reuse limits: ♵

REPURPOSE

Find other uses for items that cannot be reused, such as making planters out of used water bottles.

RECYCLE

Submit for recycling anything that cannot be reduced, reused or repurposed.

SHG Waste Management Services

WMS Dump sign

Recycling Bin

The part of the Government of St Helena that deals with waste is called ‘Waste Management Services (WMS)’ (www.sainthelena.gov.sh/‌public-services/‌waste-management-services). It collects waste from homes and businesses and processes it. It also runs the Horse Point Landfill Site (HPLS) (a.k.a.The Dump’) where people can deliver for processing waste that is too bulky for normal waste collection.

One feature of the HPLS is that the collected rubbish is organised and accessible to the public, making it easy for people to come out to the site and search for useful items to reuse or repurpose. Need parts to repair a dead fridge? Visit ‘The Dump’ and you may find the bits you need (take tools so you can detach them!)

WMS also services recycling bins around the island where recyclable materials such as glass, cans and plastic can be placed for recycling.

You can read the leaflet ‘Recycling on St Helena’, published by WMS in March 2019 (and at the time of writing still current).

Sadly, the lack of local industry and the high cost of power means that much that might be recycled ends up in landfill. Waste Management Services is always keen to hear from anyone with a project that would reduce the amount of domestic or commercial waste that ends up in landfill - contact the WMS Manager mike.durnford@sainthelena.gov.sh, (+290) 24724 to discuss your ideas.

Reduce

Everything brought to St Helena has a high cost. Consider an item sold in the UK for £2.99. Add to that the costs of shipping and customs duty and the price on the shelf in St Helena will be somewhere between £4.00 and £5.00. So there is simple economic pressure to reduce consumption. Less is purchased here that is not necessary than in most developed countries.

Plastic

Wirebird shopping bag

Whaleshark shopping bag

Until recently a large volume of single-use plastic was brought onto the island. Nowadays retailers do not routinely supply customers with plastic bags to carry home their purchases. In 2023 Solomons, as part of its campaign the reduce plastic use, stopped issuing plastic bags to its shop customers. Instead it had re-useable canvas shopping bags printed, featuring (initially) The Wirebird and Whale Sharks. See the example of these bags (right) and read this article. Other retailers are making similar moves.

Of course, plastic packaging is unavoidable, here as elsewhere. An item comes in a plastic container (water in a plastic bottle, for example). The plastic containers are grouped together into packs for shipping and enclosed in plastic. Several such packs are again grouped and plastic-wrapped. Our merchants have no influence over the decisions made by manufacturers and suppliers so cannot prevent this excessive plastic use - we can only wait for the globl community to decide against the unnecessary use of plastic. And in the meantime a lot of unwanted plastic is shipped onto the island, where although it is in theory recyclable, in practice it can’t be recycled because we do not - cannot - have the facilities, and so inevitably ends up in The Dump or blowing around the countryside.

And when we throw all this excess plastic away it goes in a plastic rubbish bag…

Sadly it is not just our own plastic waste that affects St Helena.

Recently Waste Management Services has begun trialling a plastic-compactor, which takes waste plastic and crushes it down to bales that have the strength and integrity to be used as a constructional material. More on the SHG Website. While not exactly recycling as we think of it, at least with this process the waste plastic will be serving some useful purpose.

Reuse, Repurpose, Salvage and Recycle

It is a common joke that, when you see a Ford Escort for sale in the local newspapers the caption should really read Mostly a Ford Escort. Car parts from scrapped cars are, of necessity, widely reused to fix other cars, not necessarily those of the same model or even of the same make. The image below shows the remains of an old car at ‘The Dump’, and note the engine bay - all possibly useful parts have been removed and are (probably) driving around the island inside some other vehicle.

As a resident of the island the editor of this website can personally attest to keeping several boxes of remnants from dead machinery which might come in useful someday (which they commonly do…).

Cans for recycling
Cans for recycling

Aluminium drinks cans are recycled by a local business with the name ‘Yon’s Ally’, operated by Roddy Yon. The cans are collected from dedicated recycling bins across the island; crushed to minimise volume; then shipped to South Africa for recycling there.

Glass is recycled by grinding it up to create a ‘sand’ which can be used as a building material (in substitution for actual sand). Glass is not melted and re-used to form new glass structures - this would be uneconomic because of the high price of energy on St Helena.

Up at The Millennium Forest the St Helena National Trust re-uses milk cartons as pots for seedlings and is also developing products for sale made from recyclable materials such as old tyres, discarded wood etc. Products made from re-purposed materials are already available at the Art & Crafts Association shop in Jamestown.

One excellent sourse of materials for reuse or to be repurposed is ‘The Dump’.

It is a growing frustration to the mostly older people of the island that so much modern equipment is designed to be un-repairable, throw-away-when-it-malfunctions, which because we have no facilities for extracting the base metals from electronic components is doubly frustrating. The Horse Point Landfill Site could be a gold-mine (literally!), including many precious metals, if anybody could be bothered to extract them.

During World War 2 a lot of the island’s old guns were collected up and shipped back to the UK for recycling into modern weapons, in support of the war effort{1}.

40 years later, when the spire of St. James’ Church was taken down it was originally intended that the stone would be re-used for other construction projects, but on examination it was found to be too soft for structural use{2}. Some was re-used to create the dedication plaque for St. Michael’s Church in Ruperts. More was used to mark The Slave Graves, also in Ruperts.

Since the early days, very little was thrown away. Many of the island’s ceilings are, upon closer examination, made from oil drums, flattened out into panels. When the SV Spangereid was lost in James Bay much of her cargo and fittings were salvaged, including the Captain’s boat, which was almost completely rebuilt and served as the harbour launch until recent years. Other items included canned goods, butter, lard, meat, oysters, cake powder, hare, sausages, salmon, mixed vegetables, baking powder, curry powder, sago, spice, washing soda, soap, lime juice, Quaker oats, macaroni, peas, lamps, crockery, kitchen utensils, brooms, chairs, tables, sofas, a chest of drawers, cooking stove, motor engine, two life-boats, iron tanks and around 183m of deck planking 13x10cm. Significant quantities of coal were deposited on the shore below The Wharf and provided the island with a source of cheap fuel. For many years, soft coal from The Wharf was sold at £1 per ton and used to fuel the suction gas engines of the flax mills{3}.

We suspect that some parts of the old railways (Jacob’s Ladder and Our (Other) Railway) were re-used as constructional materials. The following photos were taking in the basement of The Moon, but there are many examples around the island. They appear to be of type Bullhead, but there are many similar rail profiles and only an expert could pronounce on which they are. What do you think?

It is known that used UK rails were imported to St Helena from the 1830s, to be used as construction materials, so maybe these came from that stock. Of course, if they are re-used local rails there is no way to tell if they came from the Inclined Plane or the Ruperts Valley Tramway, though the latter seems more likely. Maybe rails from the Inclined Plane were used to build the Tramway? Who knows…the records do not seem to exist.

We have no marine scrapyard so unwanted ships are re-purposed as an artificial reef. See our page Deliberately Sunken Ships for the most recent examples. Our old cars and other large scrap items are sometimes disposed of in the same way.

Compost

‘Up country’ people collect vegetable offcuts and other bio-degradable materials and compost them to feed their plants, but in the more urbanised areas like Jamestown, Half Tree Hollow and so on there is insufficient land for any serious market gardening and much of the compostable waste goes into the bin-bags and ends up in The Dump. In the late 2010s a scheme was trialled by Waste Management Services to separately collect bio-degradable waste from homes in Jamestown, but it was decided that the cost of transport was too great and the scheme was abandoned (allowing The Sentinel to run the headline SHG rules Waste Management composting plan ‘not sustainable’).

The St Helena National Trust is happy to accept suitable waste for composting at The Millennium Forest, but cannot collect it from homes. Sadly, therefore, anyone wishing to contribute must individually drive out to the forest with their waste, which is not as eco-friendly as it could be.

It’ll come in useful for something, someday.{c}

Read More

Below: Article: Tyres GaloreArticle: Bring Ya Bag

Article: Tyres Galore

By Demy Herne, SAMS, published in The Sentinel 26th January 2023{4}

Tyres at Horse Pasture Landfill Site Now Available for Upcycling

Article: Tyres Galore

Article: Tyres Galore

A large number of end-of-life tyres, situated at the Horse Point Landfill Site’s (HPLS) Bulky Waste Cell, are now available to the public for upcycling projects. These tyres have been made available to the public thanks to a joint project between SHG and the Ascension Island Government (AIG). HPLS is open 24 hours a day, though visitors are encouraged to visit during daylight hours unless they are equipped with adequate lighting to ensure they can navigate the site safely at night.

Waste Management Services (WMS) have also advised that the Public Recycling Facility is available to dispose waste. This is in addition to the Bulky Waste Cell and gives others the opportunity to salvage and reuse some of these waste streams. This can include materials such as glass, can, scrap metal, wood, white goods and small electrical appliances, textiles and clothing, and furniture. When visiting HPLS, different Waste Cells for correct and safe disposal are signposted, but the WMS team can advise where these are if needed. HPLS is staffed during normal working hours of Monday to Friday between 8:30am and 4pm.

Domestic waste should only be placed in wheelie bins for disposal in the Refuse Collection Vehicles (RCV). Waste such as garden waste, construction waste, electrical appliances, scrap metal, vehicle batteries, oil, lubricants and paints, and agriculture chemicals should not be disposed of alongside domestic waste. These products can cause damage to the Refuse Collection Vehicles, which could render them unusable. WMS reserve the right not to empty a wheelie bin if it contains unacceptable and or hazardous waste.

WMS gave special thanks to AIG for the tyres and to AW Ship Management Limited for providing reduced shipping costs which enabled this joint working scheme between the sister Islands to work.

Article: Bring Ya Bag

Article: Bring Ya Bag

By Demy Herne, SAMS, published in The Sentinel, 5th January 2023{4}

New Year and New Campaign as Solomons Helps to Protect the Environment

Solomon and Company (St Helena) Plc have launched a new campaign to kick start the New Year called the ‘Bring Your Bag’ campaign, or #BYB, which encourages customers to bring their own shopping carriers to their outlets as opposed to purchasing the plastic carriers, which has been the norm on St Helena for a number of years.

Aimed at helping to protect the environment, Solomons hope the new initiative will put an end to the sale of single-use plastic carriers in all of their retail outlets, while it also forms part of the company’s focus on sustainability and environmental awareness.

To assist customers in supporting our campaign, we will have a wide range of re-usable bag options which are now on sale in all of Solomons grocery retail outlets; The Star, Half Tree Hollow Supermarket and Silver Hill Shop, explained Marketing and Communications Officer, Kylie Peters.

Article: Durban ‘Environmental Disaster’ Reaches St Helena

Whale Shark image

By Emma Weaver, SAMS, published in The Sentinel, 25th May 2018{4}

The newly expanded National Trust Marine Team, now including St Helenians Luke Bennett, Jamie Ellick and Kenickie Andrews, has already made its first significant discovery: That a disastrous cargo spill, which resulted in about 2 billion tiny, toxic pellets of plastic being set loose into the ocean, may have just reached St Helena’s shores.

On Oct. 10, 2017 a container ship near Durban spilled 49 tons of ‘nurdles’ - pea-sized plastic pellets used as exfoliating beads or to make larger plastic items - into the ocean. This is comparable to an oil spill, said Di Jones of the Dolphin Conservancy to IOL News on Oct. 24. There is a disaster in the making.

Three months later, a Communication Director from the South African National Department of Environmental Affairs told News24 that It has become clear, due to the amount of nurdles spilt, and their size, that the clean-up operation is going to be long and difficult. To date, only 28 percent of the 2 billion nurdles spilled in October have been recovered. According to the nurdle spill data website, the pellets have washed as far North as Tofo, Mozambique and as far South as Yzerfontein, South Africa. And May 16, St Helena’s National Trust Marine Team found that some of the 72 percent of nurdles that had not yet been recovered, had washed as far West as St Helena.

Luke, Jamie and Kenickie - along with trainer Leigh Morris - visited Sandy Bay Beach May 16 for the first of the team’s weekly beach cleans. The aim of the weekly cleans is to collect information about what washes up on St Helena’s shores - on their first visit, the Marine Team members found large quantities of nurdles. We have found small numbers of nurdles on Sandy Bay Beach over recent months (mixed in with other micro-plastics), but the very large and very visible amount found this week is highly significant, said Marine Team member/trainer Leigh Morris.

The National Trust will be working with both the British Antarctic Survey and the Ocean Conservancy for their normal weekly beach cleans; this week, though, the team turned to Lisa Guastella, the South African Oceanographic Consultant that is coordinating the nurdle-spill reports.

The 5mm-diameter, round, translucent, white nurdles found on Sandy Bay [Beach] corresponds precisely to those lost in a spill in Durban harbour, east coast of South Africa after a freak storm on Oct. 10 last year, Lisa said. The National Trust is sending a sample to Lisa for confirmation, but Lisa believes the timing of the find is significant. Ocean-current theory suggests some [nurdles] will have entered the South Indian Ocean gyre and subgyres, while some may have ‘leaked’ westward into the South Atlantic Ocean, where expected current trajectories place St Helena Island in the pathway to possibly NE Brazil, she said. The timing and location of those found at St Helena fit in with expected ocean current transport.

This nurdle discovery, the remnants of an environmental disaster reaching St Helena’s shores, comes at the same time the island is building up its Marine Protected Area practices and policies, and focusing on sustainable fishing and its unique Whale Shark population. A high amount of nurdles in the water, could attract and concentrate additional environmental pollutants like DDT and PCBs. The iconic Whale Sharks (now officially one of The Seven Wonders of St Helena) are filter-feeders and will be taking these nurdles into their mouths, along with plankton and fish eggs, as they feed, Leigh said.

The build-up of plastics and their toxins within their bodies could have a major impact on this species in years to come, and the 5mm translucent white pellets being found on our beach at Sandy Bay look very similar to the fish eggs that Whale Sharks love to eat. Other species of fish, sea birds and other life will also mistakenly eat the nurdles, or eat smaller species that have previously eaten them. Over time the nurdles (like other micro-plastics) will become smaller as the sea breaks them down, and as they become smaller, other smaller marine life will consume them. Once they have been ingested, they will stay in the animal’s stomach and cause damage by making the animals become malnourished, and through the toxins they carry. Once in the food chain, these plastics are consumed by larger species, and then larger ones, etc. ultimately passing the nurdles up the food chain and building up a higher concentration in the top predators.

On May 19, Leigh returned to Sandy Bay Beach and found a significant number of nurdles on the volcanic sand once more. The Marine Team plans to return this week for further monitoring and clean-up. While worried about the long-term impact of nurdles and micro plastics in general, the team hopes to immediately begin aiding the worldwide tracking of plastic pollution in the oceans, in the hopes of helping St Helena’s Marine Protected Area survive over time.

From an oceanographic perspective, this find in St Helena is very exciting, Lisa said. Should people on St Helena come across nurdles in any other locations, please report these to Leigh at the National Trust; along with photographic evidence and details of the weather, wind and wave conditions at the time of observation, if possible.

LOL

Credits:
{a} Chris and Sheila Hillman{b} Arthur C. Clarke{c} Frequently said by the editor of this website to his long-suffering wife as a reason not to throw away something broken.

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Footnotes:
{1} Amusing story (perhaps): When told about this operation the editor of this website’s mother happily informed him that, during World War 2, people came to her school and removed all the cast-iron railings which, she had been told (and believed), were going to be made into Spitfires. She looked very confused when the editor of this website started laughing, amused by the idea of a cast-iron Spitfire trying to get airborne….{2} How it had managed to form a 21m spire towering over Jamestown for 140 years is best not contemplated…{3} These engines had been designed for anthracite but were modified for soft coal because of this providential supply of cheap fuel.{4} @@RepDis@@

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