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Bottoms up: Mike creates his own beer garden. With no beer…

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In Mike Durnford's garden, the glass is always greener - it's recycled
In Mike Durnford’s garden, the glass is always greener – it’s recycled

A man walks into every bar in St Helena and says: “I’ll have 586 bottles of Windhoek Beer. No ice. And barman – serve them empty.”

That may not have been quite how the conversation went.

But the point is that Mike Durnford has used 24.5 crates’ worth of beer bottles in his garden, and he’s keen to make one thing clear: “I didn’t drink them all myself.”

Bottles protect my hic... hish... hibiscus
Bottles protect my hic… hish… hibiscus

As a result, he missed out on producing a large quantity of first-class compost activator.

The bottles are now buried neck first – or bottoms-up, if you prefer – in Mike’s garden.

They’re wonderful for stopping the grass from creeping into his hibiscus border, resulting in some fine lawn edging. 

“The glass is so strong that I can use a petrol strimmer along the edge of the bottles when trimming the lawn and they do not break,” boasts Mike, who is the island’s climate change and pollution officer.

He may not have consumed all the beer himself, but the pictures clearly show that when he marked out the edge of his lawn, he wasn’t walking in a straight line…

waste wheel 800Click the waste wheel to see what St Helena throws away

Mike, whose job involves peering into randomly selected bin liners every three months to analyse what people are throwing away at the dump on Horse Point, is keen to see glass recycling on an even larger scale on St Helena.

He wants to see bottles crushed to be used as a substitute for some of the aggregate – rubble – used in construction work.

It’s not as if there’s a shortage of glass. “The island imports approximately 134 tonnes of beer bottles every year, which equates to 123 cubic metres of crushed glass per year,” says Mike.

“This ‘free’ waste material could then be utilized in the many on-going construction projects across the island, including development of the airport, and would contribute towards the green status that St Helena is striving towards.”

Thirteen per cent of the material going into the landfill site is organic – and that’s simply a waste. It could be composted and then used to enrich the soil for growing fruit and vegetables.

Keeping food out of “the dump” would also make it less attractive to birds – especially pigeons. That in turn would reduce the risk of bird-strike for planes coming in and out of the airport, which is being built nearby.

The biggest contributors to the landfill site – at 21%- are steel cans and tins, according to the latest quarterly survey.

“Alternative uses for this waste stream is essential due to the high volume of imports of
tinned food and drinks,” says Mike.

“One option would be to restrict the import of beer in cans, only importing beer in glass bottles, knowing that these bottles could then be recycled.

“But other re-use ideas need to be sourced in order to significantly reduce the volume (uncrushed) being landfilled.”

Mike produces a “waste wheel” every three months showing what St Helena is throwing away. The next one is due in July 2013.

He says the data helps identify opportunities for recycling “which the island desperately needs more of, similar to the successful operation being undertaken by SHAPE [the disability charity] to recycle paper and cardboard.”

It’s all vital stuff. But what Mike doesn’t explain is how he got the labels off 586 beer bottles…

Click any thumbnail to see full-size images:


SEE ALSO: Message is in the bottles for reducing St Helena’s waste

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