Saint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 300 km east of Puerto Rico. The 87-square-kilometre island is divided roughly 60/40 between the French Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands but the two parts are roughly equal in population with total population around 80,000. Curiously, this is the only border between France and the Netherlands. The main industry of the island is tourism and the island has about one million visitors annually. About 85% of the workforce was engaged in the tourist industry.
In 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), embarked on his second voyage to the New World on behalf of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella I of Spain. According to legend, Columbus sighted and perhaps anchored at the island of Saint Martin on November 11, 1493, the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours. In his honor, Columbus then named the island “San Martin”. This name was translated to “Sint Maarten” (Dutch), “Saint-Martin” (French) and “Saint Martin” in English. The Dutch first began to ply the island’s ponds for salt in the 1620s. Then still at war with the Dutch, the Spaniards captured St. Martin in 1633. One year later, they built a fort (now Fort Amsterdam) to assert their claim and control access to Great Bay salt pond. On 23 March 1648, the Kingdom of France and the Dutch Republic agreed to divide the island between their two territories, with the signing of the Treaty of Concordia.
Saint Martin has the highest municipal solid waste generation in the Caribbean: 9.7 kg per capita per day, adding up to 300,000 tons p.a. Naturally, this takes into account also the thousands of tons of waste generated by the million or so visitors annually. The island has major waste problems due to the poor state of the landfill, frequent toxic landfill fires, low waste separation, insufficient recycling and inadequate waste management practices and policies. The landfill was close to its maximum capacity already in 2008, but is still continued to be used. The ineffective disposal of waste causes grave concerns on the island such as health hazards, air pollution, and water and soil contamination. After Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the landfill input increased exponentially, and a second dump was created in order to dispose the large amounts of hurricane debris.
Saint Martin uses more than two billion plastic straws a year, and the use of Styrofoam, plastic cups and cutlery, as well as plastic bags is widespread and accepted. The island is failing to deal with the creation of this much plastic waste. Garbage bins, when available, are overflowing and beaches and roadsides are littered with solid waste. For an island whose economy is dependent on the health and beauty of its natural resources, this is a substantial problem. A 2017 study estimated that $8 million in tourism revenue could be lost each year for every 15 items of beach litter/m2.
Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the most significant environmental crisis of our time. It is estimated that over 10 million tons of plastics enter our oceans each year, and that by 2050 there will be more trash than fish in the seas. The Caribbean Sea has one of the highest levels of plastic concentrations in the world, and the World Bank predicts that by 2025, 790,000 tons of plastic waste per year will enter this already fragile sea. All marine life is threatened by plastic pollution mostly affected through entanglement and ingestion of plastic litter.
Fortunately, in a region that is so co-dependent on the health of its natural resources, there has been a clear shift in the attitude towards single-use plastic. Since Haiti first banned the use, sale and production of single-use plastics in 2012, six other Caribbean countries (Jamaica, Dominica, the Turks and Caicos, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda) have joined the fight against plastic by banning the importation, sale and manufacture of single-use plastic products. The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize and Anguilla have all pledged to introduce such a ban by 2020. The United Nation’s Clean Seas Campaign, whose goal is to “drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastics and eradicate the use of microbeads, has already received the support of 15 countries in Caribbean and Latin America.
WOIMA has the perfect solution to support the United Nation’s Clean Seas Campaign. We have developed a modular wasteWOIMA® waste-to-energy power plant that is prefabricated into standard sea-container-sized modules and thus easy and fast to deliver anywhere in the world. It recycles the waste into raw materials and energy in the most efficient manner reducing the waste quantity by over 95%. And if requirements change over time, the power plant can be dismantled and relocated elsewhere leaving just the concrete base slab behind.
Follow our blog series “Drowning in Waste” to find out more about how WOIMA can assist various countries and cities to mitigate their waste-induced challenges.
WOIMA Corporation is a Finnish supplier of best-in-class waste-to-value products, projects and services worldwide. We have developed solutions that enable us, and the customer, to transform and recycle virtually any waste stream into raw materials and energy. At WOIMA we combine Finnish engineering know-how in waste management with power generation design expertise. These solutions are used in Finland every day. They support the circular economy ideology and ensure that less than 1% of Finland’s waste ends up in landfills.
Our mission is to improve quality of life both locally and globally, as well as empower people to utilize waste as a commodity. Our decades of international project management experience ensure an on-time, in-budget and high-quality WOIMA solution delivery across the globe.