Resource Use Efficiency

Main applications

Waste-to-energy, materials recovery, reuse and recycling.

Background to Resource Use Efficiency

Current levels of resource use efficiency in the region are low due to lack of awareness of end users on the impacts of resource use. Resource use efficiency initiatives receive high priority in order to promote the sustainable consumption of resources through the reduction of resources utilized within a process and the reduction of waste produced by a process.

A net zero waste society is illustrated in the graphic below. The aim is for everything to be used within closed cycles and have a net zero impact on the environment. In essence net zero waste embraces the following components:

  • Eliminating the unnecessary use of raw materials
  • Implementing sustainable design
  • Using resources efficiently
  • Waste prevention
  • Reusing products
  • Recovering value from products when they reach the end of their lives through recycling, composting, or energy recovery

Source: Total Environment Centre.

The ultimate objective is to create sustainable resource life cycles so that all products are redesigned or reused for others to use, achieving 100% recycling and net zero waste. The changing economic and efficiency balance between the traditional consumption model and the net zero waste model is largely driven by technological advances and increasing competition for global resources. It is observed that over time, the cost effectiveness and efficiency of recycling and reuse has improved while the costs of pursuing traditional processes have been increasing, as depicted below.

Source: Total Environment Centre.

Opportunities in Resource Use Efficiency

Plastic waste is a major component of municipal waste streams in many parts of the Caribbean, in particular Trinidad & Tobago where the government is introducing measures to improve recycling and reuse plastic beverage containers in an effort to improve the country’s environment. Initiatives such as ‘Plastikeep’ were introduced there during 2012 to increase plastic waste recycling. Malikca Cummings is a young entrepreneur in Barbados who has set up the region’s first e-waste recycling business in Barbados. In Antigua, recycling has largely been the domain of community groups and private entrepreneurs.

In relation to agricultural and process waste, the Scientific Research Council (SRC) in Jamaica has developed patented bio-digester designs that produce energy from agricultural and process waste streams, and young entrepreneurs such as Carol Lue are developing biogas-based businesses serving the tourism industry; Ken Aldonza in Saint Lucia is developing a process to convert banana waste from farms into ethanol for fuel and Elliott Lincoln of Themba Biofuels in Antigua is converting used cooking oil into biodiesel. These are all small steps that are early indicators of the opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs in the Caribbean region.