“Edom’s streams will flow sluggish, thick with pollution, the soil sterile, poisoned with waste, the whole country a smoking, stinking garbage dump. The fires burning day and night, the skies black with endless smoke. Generation after generation of wasteland, no more travelers through this country!” – Isaiah 34: 9 -10.

The above verses are reflective of the utterances of a bipolar individual in a depressive state. At the other end of the bipolarity spectrum there are visions of grandeur. Business advertisements advocate that the road to success is achieved one project, one step, one customer or one smile at a time. Conversely, is it not logical to assume that the road to decay is paved by one mistake at a time?

It is not too difficult to conceptualise the mistakes that pave the road to decay in Barbados. We (1) dump in our gullies; (2) fail to harness runoff water for productive use; (3) dump sewage and other waste at sea; (4) locate landfill projects in disaster prone areas; (5) continue to frustrate prospective investors down wind of the mount ‘stinkeroo’ landfill; (6) refuse to rehabilitate the quality of our soil; (7) harbour rat infestation in uncultivated lands; (8) pursue development projects without optimal land use considerations and drainage design; (9) have reduced sugar cane land coverage from 60% by a factor of three; and (10) dump cooking oil at landfills which pollutes Barbados’ underground aquifers, coral reefs and land and marine ecosystems.

This will result in generation after generation of wasteland, one mistake at a time. No more travelers to our country! There is a potential crisis, if ever there was one, if only because of the threat to the tourist industry, the largest industry in the island and in the Caribbean. Of course, because this potential decay is a relatively slow process, there is the temptation to bask in the euphoria of the moment and forget our responsibility to posterity.

The responsible approach would be to strategically address solutions to the challenges above and take corrective action one step at a time. The vision to which we want to aspire is energy and food security, poverty reduction through economic growth, environmental stability and, with the addition of spiritual, social and cultural factors, ultimately sustainable development. How can we convert ‘from waste to wealth and well-being’.

Science is awash with potential solutions including (1) separation of garbage; (2) commercial recycling (plastics, rubber, glass, organic matter, paper & cardboard and light & heavy metals) businesses; (3) fertilizer production from human and animal waste; (4) incineration to generate energy with harmless effluent and useful bi-products; (5) diligent pursuit of environmental impact assessments to mitigate disasters; (6) diversification of the uses of the sugar cane plant; (7) agricultural diversification on all arable lands; (8) collection of roof water; (9) mobilising renewable energy resources; and (10) conversion of domestic, commercial and cruise ship used cooking oil and extracted oil from locally grown agricultural crops to bio-diesel fuel.

Today, I want to mention a single business initiative in this spectrum of potential solutions. The idea for the company arose out of a project which Mr. Handel Callender initiated while in the Dominican Republic. Since many rural areas in the Dominican Republic are without electricity, the idea was to convert oil from the large number of coconuts available into bio-diesel and use this to fuel generators. After returning to Barbados, Handel was encouraged to enter the bio-diesel concept in the First National Innovations Competition in 2004. The idea placed second, and received the Central Bank of Barbados Award of $20,000 and a pilot commercial project was seriously considered.

Bio-diesel is an environmentally low impact (completely biodegradable and non-toxic) diesel substitute derived from used or fresh vegetable oil. Handel’s company, Native sun NRG, is converting used vegetable oil which it collects from restaurants, hotels and other institutions. Environmental clubs at schools are about to embark on the collection of domestic used cooking oil for the company to their mutual benefit. This national recycling commercial initiative contributes to the saving of foreign exchange used to buy the traditional petroleum diesel, the price of which is continually rising. A number of companies and individuals have expressed interest in and are already purchasing the company’s bio-diesel.

The capacity of this pilot bio-diesel processing facility is 4,800 gallons annually. A number of economic expansion phases have been designed to reach production volumes in excess of 800,000 gallons annually.

Bio-diesel reduces emissions and poses no threat to human health. It is non-toxic, biodegradable and reduces carbon dioxide by 78% compared to petroleum diesel, making it the most effective greenhouse gas mitigation technology currently available for heavy-duty vehicles and equipment. In most cases, little if any engine modification is required. It has the highest energy balance of any fuel and can be used in its pure form, or blended with petroleum diesel at any level. Bio-diesel offers similar fuel economy, horsepower and torque to petroleum diesel while providing superior lubricity.

The Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, United Nations Development Programme and CBET are working together with Native Sun NRG in this pilot project, located in a business incubator environment at Counterpart Caribbean’s ‘The Future Centre’ at Edghill, St. Thomas in Barbados.