The dilemma of the rubbish dump

(translated from Xabia al Dia - 27th March 2006 by Maggie Morgan)

Since the closure of the Ramblars rubbish dump, the provision of a suitable site for dumping building waste has been driving crazy the companies authorised to collect it, the town hall and the neighbours who believe they would be affected by this type of activity.

Although the words rubbish dump have been frequently used to refer to these matters, they have not always been correctly utilised, and there is a general lack of knowledge over matters of solid waste and its management process.

What is a rubbish dump?

A rubbish dump is a place where solid waste is deposited, which can be organic or inert. In essence, the rubbish or waste accumulates (without processing) indefinitely, and sometimes it is burnt in order to reduce the mountain created. The process has been like this since the times of the Roman empire. Since the end of the last century, the planet has become conscious of the importance of non-contamination, that conscience crystallising in the resolutions reached at the Earth Summit celebrated in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

It has been discovered long ago that throwing rubbish, plastics, scrap metal and other waste directly on the earth produces contamination of the soil and of possible water sources. For this reason, in recent years the old rubbish dumps have been closed and the land regenerated.

What is done now with rubbish and other residue?
If contamination costs dear, over a long period recycling is not only an activity beneficial to the environment but also economically viable. Thus, little by little, recycling is infiltrating our habits and those of businesses and administrations. Thanks to increasingly environmentally conservationist laws, today recycling has become very profitable and contamination very costly.

Nowadays in place of rubbish dumps, recycling plants and transfer plants exist. In recycling plants, as the name indicates, the residues are processed and converted into reusable materials. In transfer plants, the different types of residues are separated in order to transport them subsequently to the corresponding recycling plants.

Illegal and unregulated rubbish dumps

The rubbish dump at Ramblars I was closed definitively at the end of the past year. Until then, it was used to deposit garden waste and to enable the transfer of construction waste. The rubbish dump was closed partly because of its closeness to the Parque Natural del Montgó and the risk of fire from the residues in decomposition. The two fires produced in 2002 and in 2005 landed the town hall with accompanying fines of a total of 30,000 euros.

In spite of the fact that the problem is not new – indeed the ex-councillor for services, Tony Cabban, tried to encourage the creation of a transfer plant – and that the closure of the rubbish dump was decreed at the beginning of 2005, an alternative for the management of waste has not yet been created.

In a municipality like Xàbia where construction is one of the principal motors of the economy, various businesses exist dedicated to the transport and management of rubble and the residues of construction works These companies used the Ramblars rubbish dump to deposit the waste, with the aim of separating the different types of residue: that is scrap metal, wood, organic waste and rubble.

Now, with the closure of the rubbish dump, an alternative site is needed where this selection can be carried out. The first site chosen was a plot on the side of the main access road to Xàbia, situated on the industrial zone of Catarrojes. In spite of the fact that this activity is legal in that zone, its close presence to houses provoked the neighbours to launch a protest against the new “rubbish dump” – in reality it was a transfer plant – which still had not been able to obtain the necessary permissions.

For this reason, the transfer plant was moved to a nearby site, on the other side of the Gorgos river, where it was hoped that it would not molest the neighbours. This transfer plant is situated on Non-Urbanizable Land. In spite of being situated in a somewhat remote place, the neighbours have protested again, and claim that the rubbish and residues contaminate the soil and the water sources and that they spoil such a beautiful natural spot.

There ought not to be organic waste among the building rubble, but there are still citizens who do not know how uncivic it is to throw their waste in the building skips. For its part, the town council has initiated an investigation to the company that has created this new rubbish dump, and sends inspectors almost every day to control its activity.

The solution

The company Recixàbia S.A. is made up of various local businesses dedicated to the transport of building rubble and it has presented a project for the regeneration of the Ramblars rubbish dump I, which consists of the infill of the area with treated garden waste – previously it was deposited without treatment – and earth, and the subsequent replanting of the zone. This project would not only not cost the municipal coffers one single euro, but would also provide a solution for municipal garden waste. Additionally, Recixábia has a project for the creation of a transfer plant, which depends on the permission of the municipal department.

Meanwhile, the councillor for Services, Pascual Codina, is working on the creation of an ecopark in the cami de les Sorts, which would serve as a deposit and transfer plant for all types of municipal residue – except organic waste – that is electrical goods and other household equipment, wood, garden waste, batteries, oil, cardboard and packaging. At the same time, in the area of Ramblars II , he wants to create a transfer plant, where the different types of waste would be separated, now that the recycling plants do not accept mixed waste, and where garden waste collected in the municipal skips could be treated.
These residues would be subsequently transported to the plant at the Garganta de Gata (building rubbish) and to that in Benissa (garden waste) for processing. According to Codina, Ramblars II should be ready within a few months.

In addition, the town hall together with the companies supplying skips for building waste are designing an awareness campaign to motivate the separation of wastes at origin. That is to say it should be the constructor himself who ought to undertake the separation of the wastes. If this is successful, it would eliminate the need for the transfer plant. In this respect, the councillor for services has initiated a change in the municipal bye-laws with the aim of making non-separation of wastes at source sanctionable.

But not everything is the responsibility of others. Citizens are also for the residues which they generate. Recycling does not only contribute to the regeneration of the environment, but in addition this action supports sustainability, that is to say, it guarantees our future and that of our children. Recycling the waste from home and from work, not soiling the public streets, not throwing rubbish on the ground or into building skips… these are sustainable actions, correct in a civilised society.

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