What a day it was. A day after our first snorkel, we needed as much sleep as possible. Somehow, we woke up in time to catch our bus. However, within seconds of entering the bus, we had a slight malfunction. The fire extinguisher went off, spraying everyone in its path.
After the morning wake up call, we were greeted by Aaron McKittrick, the research development officer for the Department of Energy. A very informative hour was to follow, as we discussed Bermuda and their strive to become a more sustainable nation.
Quick Fact break:
-Bermuda almost has as many cars as people
-Gas is $8 per gallon (highest in the world)
-Electricity costs $0.45 per kw/hr (St Augustine is about $0.17)
-Bermuda’s department of energy was established in 2008
Mr. McKittrick and his team of two others are trying to find ways to make Bermuda sustainable, while keeping the government, citizens, private businesses, and environment happy.
Immediately following the morning lecture, we squeezed onto the bus and ran over to the Tynes Bay Waste Treatment Facility, where we met Ms. Zooey Roberts, their health safety and environment coordinator. She explained to us the two main objectives of the plant and its unique incinerator; turn garbage into ash for concrete blocks, and produce power. The blocks are placed near the airport to try and expand the land area over time.
Another Quick Fact break:
-Trash drop-offs are $110 per ton (compared to <$10 in St. Augustine)
-The incinerator’s current turbine can produce 3.4 million watts of power. The new turbine can produce up to 7.5 million watts of power, paying for itself within TWO YEARS!
For lunch we enjoyed a picnic at John Smith’s Bay on the south shore in Smith’s Parish. The weather wasn’t perfect; it was cloudy with a bit of wind, but Bermuda’s natural beauty helped us to relax and enjoy a nice break. Some of the more daring students wanted to go swimming, the water looked that inviting.
After lunch our awesome bus driver, Ms. Davis, took us to Bermuda’s Material Recovery Facility, MRF, located in the Government Quarry in St. George’s Parish. Here we met Vanese Flood-Gordon, the Waste Education & Enforcement Officer for the Bermuda Government’s Waste Management. She showed us where all of the tin, aluminum, glass, vehicle batteries of all sizes, and home electronics that are delivered to the facility are processed. She even took the time to discuss recycling and some of the problems associated with it.
The MRF does not recycle what they receive, they separate it and each type is packaged to be shipped to the U.S. and brokered for the best possible price. The $8.5 million facility has been in operation since 1994, separating incoming tin, aluminum, and glass. The equipment has the capacity to process as much as 20 tons of material every hour, but usually only processes 10 tons per hour. The tin and aluminum are crushed into ½ ton bales and shipped to the U.S. to be recycled.
The vehicle batteries and electronics are shipped in shipping containers to the U.S. as well to be properly disposed of. The unfortunate thing that we learned about the batteries is that new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations are going to make it cost prohibitive to ship them into the U.S. The batteries already had to be shipped in special boxes and pallets that cost $200 each. They had to be individually wrapped in plastic and covered with vermiculite in order to be accepted into the country. EPA regulations formerly allowed the batteries to be stacked in the 4 foot high boxes. New rules add taping the battery leads and do not allow any stacking of the batteries or pallets.
Glass is the only thing that remains on the island. The glass is crushed to different sizes and offered free to the government, businesses, and public for use in soil augmentation. We saw a huge mountain of crushed glass that had to be 50 feet high. It was fascinating to learn that Canada has 3 beer companies that have a deposit program using the same bottle type each, reducing their environmental impact as well as saving the businesses money.
Unfortunately we did not get to see the equipment in operation. It is so noisy when going through its processes that we wouldn’t get to hear all that Ms. Gordon had to share with us. The peace and quiet was only broken up by a few deliveries that came while we were there. Only about 1/3 of Bermuda’s residents are known to recycle, so there aren’t as many deliveries as there should be.
After our visit to the MFR we returned to the aquarium where we were afforded the opportunity to visit the natural history museum and its library. Alison Green, the librarian, told us all about the library. If there is a scientific book, reference book, scientific paper, newspaper or magazine article, etc., that discusses Bermuda or its natural history, flora or fauna, it or a digital or hard copy of it are available in the library. There are article clippings from as far back as 1917. Binders of some of the clippings were out on display for us.
Right next to the library was the office and work space of the natural history museum’s collections manager, Lisa Green. Bottles with an array of different creatures found in and around Bermuda were on tabletops and desktops, as well as the bones of a few birds and some stuffed birds too. There were even parts of whale brains in bottles there. Most of what was in the collection, which numbered in the thousands, was brought in or discovered by locals and visitors to the island.
Carefully preserved marine and terrestrial organisms, as well as fossils that date back thousands of years, can be found in the museum’s collection. Each specimen has as much collection information as possible to aid in present and future research related to life in Bermuda. Modern additions include digital photographs that better preserve the natural forms of organisms as they lose color and their appearances change over time. After cataloging and giving them unique museum identification numbers, each preserved creature is organized according to their taxonomic nomenclature and stored like the library books next door in the wet or dry collection where they can be easily located.
Many interesting things have been found in Bermuda since Mrs. Green has been working in the natural history museum. She told us about one of the most interesting findings. A few years ago a blanket octopus was found washed up on a south shore beach and was added to the collection. She described this cephalopod as being over a meter long with webbing between its arms.
And now, a good night sleep is needed for another day in beautiful Bermuda!