Study In Cook Islands Determines Landfill To Be Best Solid Waste Disposal Method

Technologies such as waste-to-energy too costly, technically complicated

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan. 17, 2017) – An investigation into alternative methods of rubbish disposal has concluded that a landfill remains the most viable option for waste disposal in Rarotonga.

Infrastructure Cook Islands WATSAN director Jaime Short said a feasibility study conducted last year had looked at future options including installing an incinerator as a way of managing final waste disposal on Rarotonga.

However, the outcome of the study suggested that the landfill would have to continue to operate.

“Other technologies for waste disposal for the total waste going to the landfill at the moment are very limited, including waste to energy, incineration and gasification. And most examples of these technologies only exist in the northern hemisphere,” Short said. 

“As well as being technologically complicated and expensive to operate and maintain methods such as incineration required vast amount of rubbish to be viable - much more than the entire Cook Islands could produce,” she said.

“It was then recommended that the current landfill must expand further up the valley.”

However, whether the landfill was able to expand would depend on the landowner agreement and it was unlikely that another site could be secured for landfilling as it had taken 10 years to secure the current site. 

Short said in order for the landfill to last for a longer period of time the landfill hole had been filled in and baled garbage was being stacked on top. 

“Baling began around September 2012 and over time the ‘historic’ rubbish is breaking down, and bales also break apart eventually. 

“We can definitely expand the lifetime of the landfill by using heavy machinery to push and re-compact the garbage already there.” Short said compacting was expected to give the Arorangi site a further 10 years of operation. Its operational life could be extended as compaction continued and the amount of recycling increased, diverting material away from the landfill.

“A 2012 audit showed that 67 per cent of rubbish in half a compaction truckload could have been diverted to recycling and/or reuse and composting. 

“Waste diversion from the landfill is of utmost importance and this can be done by reducing, reusing and recycling. This can be most efficiently done by separation at the source - that is at homes, offices, work and service places.”

Short suggested that it would also be a good idea to reduce the importation of products packaged in plastic and foam, where alternatives were available.

She said plastics and foam did not break down like paper and metals and they also cause major problems in the marine environment.

More detailed information on the feasibility study will be released from ICI once the study passes through cabinet.

When it was commissioned in 2005, the expected lifetime of the Rarotonga landfill was 15 years. 

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