Waste management on the Azores

Waste management on the Azores

After years of waste build-up on the islands of the Azores, the regional government finalized a solution allowing the community to remove the local landfills once and for all. The solution? Baling the waste into clean and sealed round bales using an Orkel Hi-X compactor, seamlessly designed to handle household waste!


Facing waste management challenges in a growing community

Coming to terms with the islands’ waste management limitations, the regional government of the Azores recruited local firm Facil Inova Lda to lead the improvement process. After introducing its compactor technology in their tender competition, Orkel AS and Facil Inova initiated their cooperation to remove landfills from the Azores archipelago, once and for all.

Facil, an abbreviation of “Fornecedores Açoreanos de Comércio e Industria Lda”, is a 60-year-old company located on São Miguel island of the Azores. Today, Facil is a holding company while Facil Inova Lda is the group company that provide sales and services on the nine Azorian islands. Currently, Facil Inova Lda has 3 business areas; industry, construction, and renewable energy, and approximately 40 employees across the islands.

The disadvantages with increasing productivity

The Azores, a small group of islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, has experienced significant economic growth since the end of the 1990s, bringing with it the advantages and the disadvantages of increased productivity and employment. Unlike Facil, most companies on the Azores are recently established, challenging the small islands’ traditional infrastructure.

Currently, the islands' main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, livestock and fishing, in addition to the increasing income from tourism. The island communities are thriving, however, one issue becomes more apparent as infrastructure grows; How will the communities manage the growing amount of waste produced? 


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Beautiful surroundings on the Azores

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The Azores is dependent on rich soil and clean water, to which landfills poses a serious threat.

Landfills: a serious threat

Up until 2017, in order to remove waste from townships and private properties, the Azores was dependent on creating landfills on each of the inhibited islands. According to the Portuguese Environment Agency, the average Azorian produces more waste than the average Portuguese mainlander does: A total of over 7.000 tons a year on the island of Faial alone!

A better solution

Ever-expanding landfills and an unsustainable waste management strategy is harmful in many ways to a community. The deterioration of waste produces gases which alone can harm human health and the quality of the surrounding environment. Furthermore, the risk of toxic runoff is considerable: Due to its vast agricultural sector, the Azores is dependent on rich soil and clean water, to which landfills poses a serious threat. Landfills may also contribute to landscape changes, possibly resulting in loss of vital habitats. Essentially, unsustainable waste management may be the perfect storm to jeopardize Azorian island life.

As a result, the Azorian regional government sought to find a solution. 

The negative impact of landfills
  • Releases methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to air pollution and global warming.
  • Threatens the local biodiversity, destroying the habitat of local fauna.
  • Contributes to groundwater pollution, as highly toxic chemicals are formed when constituents dissolve and enter the groundwater.
  • Decreases soil fertility, altering the soil content due to toxic substances and decaying organic material, preventing potential future agriculture.
  • Impacts human health, due to air- and water pollution and potentially disease-carrying pests.
  • Causes negative visual impact, as landfills ruin the natural landscape and appeal, often reducing nearby housing prices.
  • Claims vast areas, unabling communities a more benficial use of space from potential stakeholders.
  • Remains a problem for future generations, as waste buried in landfills breaks down at a very slow rate.


How to manage the growing amount of waste

In order to improve the waste management strategy, the regional government initiated a collaboration with the local firm Facil Inova Lda. Firstly, the regional government built an incinerator on the island of Terceira intended for the waste segment.

A waste management boat was transporting waste from other islands to the incinerator facilities on Terceira, however, they soon discovered the negative aspects of transporting loose household waste across sea. “This transport had negative effects on a hygienic level, since the waste was transported in containers with hermetic limitations.” which Pedro Bizarro, the Sales Director of Facil Inova, expressed. After suggestions from Facil and proposals from Orkel, a cooperation was formed with high-density baling technology as the solution.

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Clean storage of waste with bales.

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The Orkel Hi-X compactor transforms waste into sealed round bales.


Atle opplaering

New operators are trained by Orkel technicians

Organized waste management with round bales

Choosing an Orkel compactor offered several benefits for the Azorian waste market. Bales are user friendly as they allow seamless handling and transport, providing organized waste management. Furthermore, storing waste in bales instead of in open containers assures that no waste is lost during prolonged storage, and removes the possibility of toxic runoff and hazardous gases as the bales limit oxygen supply.

Moreover, baling waste with high density will reduce the total volume of waste, lowering the required storage space on Terceira. Additionally, quoting Mr. Bizarro of Facil Inova; “[high-density baling] increases the calorific value of the packaged material when it is incinerated, which is a great benefit for us!”


Preserving the unspoiled island life

Today, the local government has come a long way in battling the Azorian waste issue. Currently, the Azores has two Orkel Hi-X compactors, one on São Jorge and one on Faial island. Using these compactors, the Azorian waste is made into high-density bales before they are transported directly to the facilities on Terceira or placed in storage for later incineration.

Additionally, plastics, glass and paper are hand sorted from ordinary waste in order for the materials to be shipped to the Portuguese mainland and recycled.


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Waste arriving to the plant.

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The waste is compated and wrapped into clean bales.

Round bales provide an airtight sealing of waste

As the waste management strategy strengthens, the threat from landfills are slowly perishing. Toxic runoff and unpleasant odors are a thing of the past, as all generated waste nowadays are sealed in airtight bales before being destroyed. For each island containing a compactor, the opportunity for prolonged storage reduces the number of trips made by the waste management boat.

Long term, this will limit ship traffic amid the Azores’ vulnerable marine life, and reduce the cost related to frequent waste transport. And despite the recent improvements, the collaboration is showing no signs of stopping: “As the local government is planning on extending the local waste management, we are foreseeing the need for more Orkel compactor technology” reveals Sales Director, Pedro Bizarro.

Orkel is looking forward to future collaborations, with an even greater environmental impact, together with Facil Inova and the Azores!


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The team at Facil together with Orkel technician, Atle Erik Rekstad (to the left)

waste hi-x

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