published on 4 February 2019 in water

Separate waste collection arrives in Antarctica

In Antarctica too, waste becomes a resource for preserving the local ecosystem. In fact, thanks to the circular economy model devised and created by ENEA (the Italian Agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development) for the Mario Zucchelli Italian Station, from now on it will be possible to separate, classify and reuse waste generated on site. Separate collection of plastic, Tetra Pak cartons, glass, cardboard, copper, steel and organic residues will thus make it possible to minimise use of the incinerator.

Aerial view of the Mario Zucchelli Italian Base, located in Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica. Credits: Paride Legovini from Wikimedia Commons

During the 3-4 months of the Antarctic campaigns, the Italian station accommodates as many as 100 people at the same time, including researchers and technicians, and therefore a considerable quantity of waste is produced. This waste is then transported to Italy thanks to a ship made available by the National Programme of Antarctic Research (PNRA), which performs this service every 2 years. In the last shipment made, 22 containers of waste, a total of 148 tons, were unloaded in the port of Ravenna; the waste was then consigned to specialised firms for disposal. Of the total quantity of waste that had arrived in Italy, 86% (or 127 tons) was sent for recycling, while the remaining 21 tons, made up of ash, fuel, adhesives, paints, laboratory chemicals, and sanitary waste, was sent to a landfill.

As explained by Giuseppe Fantauzzi, the waste management supervisor at the Mario Zucchelli station in Antarctica, the waste management model created by ENEA, in addition to being virtuous, has been fully tested and is replicable in all the research centres that produce not only domestic waste, but special waste too. Besides paving the way for sustainable waste management, correct waste separation, especially where waste that is hazardous for humans and for the environment is concerned, makes it possible to drastically reduce the costs of disposal of all substances that cannot be recovered.

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