The Rarotonga Waste Facility is nearly at full capacity and the amount of waste generated on the island is set to increase, with an ever-increasing number of tourists visiting the island every year.
Millions of tonnes of glass waste is generated around the world every year. Almost all of this waste ends up in a landfill. As glass does not decompose, the waste sits in landfills taking up space for many years to come.
At the start of last year, Infrastructure Cook Islands WATSAN Director Jamie Short called for an extension of the Rarotonga Waste Facility, due to it being near capacity. With Rarotonga being so isolated, there is a high cost associated with the export of rubbish.
Add to this the fact that the Cook Islands had its highest ever number of visitors last year,at over 160,000, and it is clear that something needs to be done about the ever-increasing amount of waste being produced here.
Fraser believes he has a few solutions. Concrete made with recycled crushed glass is one of his favourites. “It’s cheaper, lighter, and stronger than normal concrete” says Fraser. He began experimenting with the idea over seven years ago, after inheriting a crusher from a friend. He used the crushed glass to make concrete and sand for the construction of his house. He also produced slabs, breeze blocks, and even headstones out of the recycled waste. At one point, Fraser says he was crushing over half of the islands’ glass waste. “I used to get three bins full of empty bottles delivered to me every day from Trader Jacks” says Fraser. “I even hired someone to crush glass for me daily” he adds. Fraser used mostly recycled materials in the construction of his house. He has thousands of crushed glass bottles, old tyres, and even bottle caps hidden around his home. Everything from the retaining walls to steps and counter tops are made with recycled materials.
Fraser estimates there is only three years’ worth of sand left for construction on the island. “What are we going to do once we run out? Buy sand and ship it in? Broken glass and mulched plastic is just as good” he says. Although he has received support from locals, Fraser says he needs the support of business owners and government officials, too. “People have been saying things like “good on you Brad”, but it’s not the right people” he says. “In the last seven years, all I’ve received by way of assistance is $412.00” Fraser says. He says he is not in it for himself, “I don’t have all of the equipment needed to meet the demand for these materials, but companies like T&M Heather do”. “Small islands such as ours need to be smart about how we manage our waste… we could be removing rubbish from the ocean and using it for building” he says.
- Liam Ratana