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Waste disposal from Antarctica

All the waste that BAS generates in its Antarctic Stations (other than sewage and food waste) is removed from Antarctica. The dumping of waste or chemicals on land or at sea, or open burning of rubbish all being prohibited by the Environmental Protocol. Wastes are separated at source and then processed by shredding or compacting to reduce their volume before disposal or recycling.

The BAS Environment Office has produced a Waste Management Handbook which lists all the types of waste materials that are generated in Antarctica, and their most appropriate method of disposal. This includes the following:

  • Waste fuel and oil are sent for safe disposal in the Falkland Islands
  • Hazardous wastes (e.g. antifreeze, batteries, laboratory chemicals,) are sent to the UK for safe disposal by licenced waste contractors; and
  • Reusable or recyclable items (e.g. drinks cans, lead-acid batteries, photographic chemicals) are also sent to the UK.

Managing wastes at remote locations requires innovative solutions. BAS has worked with a local engineering firm to develop a portable hydraulic drum crusher which can easily be dismantled, loaded into a twin otter plane and flown out to remote field depots to crush empty drums. This dramatically reduces the flying hours and aviation fuel needed to remove the drums from the field.

Professor Howard Dalton (Chief Scientist, DEFRA) commented during his visit to Rothera in January 2006 how “seriously impressed” he was with the BAS waste management strategy.