Recycling is the only way to treat waste on the Island. This is the reason that has led the Cabildo to set up a new plant in the Tenerife Environmental Complex (CAT), located in Arico, to prevent the burying of 76,000 tons of organic waste per year. To this we must add the recently awarded space in an adjacent plot that will incorporate other systems. The key to the future is in separation in origin for two reasons: the limitation of space when it comes to continuing to accumulate garbage in the landfill and the pressure of the European Union regulations. This has marked the threshold of the year 2035 to reduce to 10% (60,000 tons) the volume of waste that today (580,000) is buried in the mountains that have emerged since 1985, when it was created, around the island facility.
Automating the plant to recycle the containers of the yellow container has cost 3 million
One day in what was formerly known as PIRS makes it possible to understand that more than 250 people work there with the aim of receiving the greatest amount of separated waste, depending on the color of the container where it is deposited. Yellow (light packaging); blue (paper and cardboard); green (glass) and gray (rest). Only two of the 31 municipalities on the Island, Santa Cruz and Granadilla, have begun the path to implement the fifth, brown, where the citizen deposits organic waste.
The president of the Cabildo, Pedro Martín, values the investment of 1.5 million euros to rehabilitate and put into operation a ship that had been stopped since 2018 due to problems in its structure. For his part, the Minister for Sustainable Development and the Fight against Climate Change, Javier Rodríguez, points out that “it is an objective to drastically reduce the amount of waste that goes to the dumping cell (burial)”.
The official name is the Tenerife Environmental Complex Biostabilization Plant. From now on, more than 76,000 tons of organic waste will be treated there each year. The first thing explained by those who know is that “one cannot speak of composting as such because the waste is not completely clean but rather contains other added materials.”
wind and seagulls
Wind (very windy) and seagulls (hundreds of seagulls). Two factors that mark the visit to this enormous space, equivalent to 320 football fields. Dionisio Estévez, delegate responsible for the Environmental Complex, corroborates it. He has been here for the 38 years of life of this facility, the first controlled island landfill. At the beginning it had an area of approximately 300,000 square meters. Dionisio manages to calculate when the trade winds are strongest, around eleven in the morning. And it doesn’t fail. Nor when he explains that it is necessary for the trucks to constantly refresh the dirt roads between mountains that are nothing but garbage. Or that some operators – the least pleasant link in the production chain – remove by hand and constantly bending down the bags that fly from all directions so that they do not reach the neighbors’ properties. Separated by a fence.
“This is a start to be able to receive what the municipal organic container generates”
The first stop on the journey is the ship enabled to start the path in the recycling of organic matter. The stench is simply unbearable. Estévez explains: “The garbage ferments, is sanitized or pasteurized, and produces this intense smell. You cannot be exposed to this contamination more than just the right amount of time.
The Cabildo has invested one and a half million euros in fine-tuning this facility to start it up again and stop burying a large amount of waste. Its subsequent destination is the filling of slopes or certain uses in agriculture, gardening, road maintenance, etc. The objective is not to continue burying and occupying territory with what may be resources or raw materials.
The president of the Cabildo, Pedro Martín, values: “The reactivation of this facility is an advance that complements other actions in which we have been working in the field of waste management, such as the expansion of the packaging plant or some new initiatives in which private companies will come to give a new opportunity to the garbage ». Martin includes among the latter, the case of the recent award of the plot of 27,000 square meters inside the complex for the installation of different recycling industries.
“We are committed to the circular economy through facilities like this”
“This is the start to facilitate the implementation of the fifth container for municipalities,” says the president. He recalls that “Santa Cruz and Granadilla have pilot projects for containers only for organic matter.” He reinforces the driving idea: “If we manage to collect it at source, we will reduce the environmental impact generated by garbage, but we need the determined support of the municipalities.”
For his part, the island councilor for Sustainable Development and the Fight against Climate Change, Javier Rodríguez, adds: «One of the priority objectives, in terms of waste management, was to reactivate this plant to promote an energy break: to go from burying waste so that they can be valued and converted into resources. The counselor explains: “We live with a technological development that allows us to give rise to the circular economy, and we are committed to that route.” He adds: “The commissioning of this plant is an example.”
The biostabilization plant will be able to treat 76,000 tons/year of organic matter from the gray container. It will generate a biostabilized material with different applications. That roughly translates to 6,300 tons per month, which will no longer be buried. The improvement work has cost 1,189,760 euros. The intervention consisted of dismantling the existing structures, including the roofs, and replacing the enclosures. In addition to the reinstallation of water distribution pipes, electrical panels and ventilation ducts or the incorporation of fire extinguishing systems; the signs and the construction of a booth for the office.
Millions of euros
- The investment made to renovate the plant in the Arico CAT, unused since 2018, which the Cabildo understands must be key on the path to recycling organic waste.
- The equivalent of the extension, close to three million square meters, of a plot that has been growing little by little until reaching double the forecast of 38 years ago.
- This universe is a workplace for professionals in different facets. From the technical plan of the engineers to the workers who collect bags so that they do not fly to the adjacent farms.
It is enriching to observe the entire breadth of the complex from above, in the aptly named El Mirador. And, in parallel, listen to the explanations, full of didactics, from the Head of the Technical Waste Service of the Cabildo, Humberto Gutiérrez. Wind, of course, and a multitude of seagulls waiting for a meal that these carrion birds, of both good and unfair fame, take for granted.
The route then leads to the packaging recycling plant. Its automation has involved an investment of three million euros. Almost everything is already mechanized, but there is one link in the chain for the human being. The workers, almost all of them workers, carry out a triage to separate the large volume parts. It fits all because you can see even old cassette tapes circulating before the gaze of the digital troglodytes who visit the site.
Dionisio, Humberto and all their colleagues have made an effort during the tour to show their workplace. He sums it up in one sentence: «We have to put an end to the urban legend that recycling doesn’t matter because everything ends up in the same place. Here we strive daily so that it is not like that. We are hundreds in a labor for the future of our Island». Between wind and seagulls.