I had the opportunity to visit the Rooney Road Recycling Center – a hazardous waste facility which collects materials from household and small businesses within the Jefferson County. The facility is managed voluntarily by the counties who participate and contribute (finance and manpower) to the center. Materials that can be dropped off at the center (at a cost, depending on the material and weight) include paints, aerosols, beauty/ spa products, batteries, lights, and electronics, and these materials are stored in designated rooms. The center acts as a transfer station before the collected materials get transported to the hazardous landfill managed by Veolia. However, certain materials can be re-used instead of getting sent to the landfill. The center has a Paint Care program whereby people can re-use the paints that are dropped off at the facility for free! This “free to re-use” system also applies to household chemicals and beauty/ spa products.
Before breaking for lunch, my host gave me a quick look-around of how a local restaurant (Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza) is doing a good job in managing their waste. The restaurant not only recycles recyclable materials, but it also compost food waste and has services for grease to be collected!
I walked around the city for a bit after lunch to take photos of Bigbelly – a smart waste and recycling bin equipped with an interior trash compactor and solar panels. The compactor helps make more space for the bins to receive more trash before they get collected. In addition to having a compactor and solar panels, it has a function to feed information to a computer and informs how much capacity is left in the bins, when it reaches full capacity, and the last date it was emptied.
The main message of the week is that waste management requires cooperation and demands financial input. In Brunei, the government spends about BND1.2 million a year to manage and maintain rubbish dumpsites, but open dumping is still an ongoing issue (Source: The Scoop). What needs to be improved is individual’s responsibilities of managing waste. Speaking in general terms, once trash is thrown away and out of our hands then that’s it – we don’t own it anymore, we don’t see it anymore, and at the end of the day there will always be someone who will take it away from us. There is so much potential to change this perception; starting with (theoretically) identifying various methods of addressing this and then taking a collective action to implement them.