“Barbados aims to be the most advanced green economy in the whole Latin America and the Caribbean”. This message has been stressed by Minister of Environment and Drainage, Denis S. Lowe, and other Barbados officials, throughout the week of the World Environment Day 2014 celebrations.

This small—a dot on the map, say the locals—island developing state has big plans in terms of sustainable development. And they are already becoming a reality.

Barbados is the 4th country in the world in solar water heater penetration per 1,000 inhabitants. By 2020, they expect to be among the top five countries in solar photovoltaic penetration. It is also the first country in the world in diversion of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic from the landfill: they recycle 80% of the total PET. In order to showcase their progress in some of these fronts, in the framework of World Environment Day celebrations, a group of international and local media were offered a tour of three sites.

Their first stop was B’s Recycling, a private company that collects and buys plastic bottles, glass, batteries, vehicle bumpers, aluminum, electronic scrap, etc. They separate, prepare and process the different materials and send them abroad for recycling.

They sell 35 containers—with 20 tonnes of processed materials— every week. This is a true green business that makes profit, diverts solid waste from landfills, avoids green house gas emissions and has created 116 green jobs so far. After witnessing the complete transformation of a water bottle into a handful of thin plastic scales—as a first step towards its reincarnation— the journalists visited a landfill regulated by the public sector and operated by a private company, the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre.

Every day, some 700 trucks empty their loads in this facility, where some 60 to 85 people—depending on the season—work. Barbados has even more ambitious plans in the near future: the creation of the Green Energy Complex, that would include many different components, from solid waste management, to biomass, wind and solar power generation. In three years, the complex is expected to generate 50 megawatts of power—one third of the peak electricity demand of the island.

The final destination of the tour was Solar Dynamics. Solar heaters nested on roofs are part of the urban landscape of Barbados. When it came to life, exactly forty years ago, Solar Dynamics was a pioneer in educating the population on the efficiency and convenience of solar thermal power. It now employs 25 people and has the capacity to produce 20 heaters per day. Factoring in the price of the equipment, the running cost with current electricity prices in Barbados, and the public subsidies, Solar Dynamics claims it would take an average citizen two years to recover the investment of purchasing a heater.

These are just some examples of the green economy approach of Barbados, where the public and private sector have joined efforts to invest in the sustainable future of their island and their people.

Exerpts from : UNEP