I refer to the report published in the November 2nd issue of the Majorca Daily Bulletin which reported on the steady climb of solid waste disposal costs during the past year. Having participated in the design, construction and operation of large industrial developments which included energy generation, water supply, manufacturing facilities, environmental protection and gaseous, liquid, and solid waste disposal, I want to explain the reasons for such cost increases and before I do, I want to clarify that I have no connections whatsoever with the Balearic government and with any of the agencies involved in generating electrical energy, supplying water, or engaged in waste disposal in Majorca.

To begin with, let me mention two basic facts that all persons living in Majorca should know, namely:
1. Majorca is a small island with a limited land area and limited natural resources.
2. The economy of Majorca, based largely on tourism, is such that demand for electrical energy, water, and waste disposal is very seasonal. The average monthly demand for these services during the months of June, July and August is several times larger than the average monthly demand during the rest of the year. Also, the average daily per capita demand of a tourist for these services is larger than that of a resident. And as the tourist industry demands the supply of electrical energy, water and waste disposal at all times, the capacity to supply these services must be based on the peak demand, a planning engineer's nightmare.

Recycling solid wastes is the ideal way of disposing of it, but in order to recycle it, you must have the industry to use it. Unfortunately, outside of very limited amounts of broken glass waste for its handicraft glass industry, Majorca does not have the industry to recycle the rest of its solid waste. This means that the solid waste to be recycled, after being segregated and classified, will have to be packaged and shipped to the mainland, an added cost which may make it uncompetitive.

In the absence of land to be used as land-fill for solid wastes in an island where land is already at a premium, incinerating it may be the only viable alternative.

Incineration has two problems, the production of toxic stack gases (principally when burning plastic materials) and the disposal of ashes. Technology is now available for the elimination of the toxic gases, but it means additional equipment which results in additional costs which have to be passed on to the customer.

Ash disposal is easier. Any soluble matter in it must be prevented from getting into the water supply. Depending on its chemical composition, it has several possible uses, as a filler in cement blocks, material for road constructions, and as land fill material.

Going into costs, installing additional facilities to take care of peak loads during the tourist season means more idle capacity during the off-season, and idle capacity is expensive. Machinery left idle during the off-season has to be kept clean and well maintained and depreciation charges continue. Also, interest charges on any borrowed money used to install this capacity continue whether these are operating or not. Any talk of having the government subsidise such costs is unrealistic as it is the public, in the long run, that pays for such subsidies.

I believe that the disposal of solid wastes is the most serious problem Majorca faces as it approaches the limits of its sustainable development under present conditions.

Very truly yours,

Pedro Picornell. Palma


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