At Vernadsky station plastic becomes a souvenir | Polarjournal
On February 6, 1996, the Ukrainian flag was hoisted for the first time and the British Faraday Station was renamed “Akademik Vernadsky”, and handed over to Ukraine. (Photo: UAC)

With the support of Coca-Cola, a plastic recycling plant was installed at the Ukrainian Antarctic station “Akademik Vernadsky”. This will help to not only reduce the amount of waste, but also to produce souvenirs for tourists. This was announced during a press conference at the beginninig of September at the UNIAN Press Centre.

Plastic recycling at the station is extremely important because Antarctica is a huge nature reserve. The continent has strict rules for waste management. People should not leave trash behind. At the station, household waste is collected separately in separate fractions. For example, metals, PET plastic, HDPE plastic, household chemical bottles, glass, organic, etc.

The recycling ideas were presented to the public at a press conference. (Photo: UAC)

Waste such as cardboard, polyethylene plastic and packaging is compacted with a press, which reduces its volume. The compacted waste is transported by ship to Chile, where it is recycled for a lot of money. In the course of the year, the station produces about 50 such large bags of “other waste”, each weighing 20 to 50 kg. Plastic bottles have been compacted separately since this year.

But not only the station residents are involved in the “Recycling” project, but also station visitors. “It is important to avoid negative impacts on the environment and on wildlife not only from polar scientists but also from tourists. Our station is one of the most visited places in Antarctica,” explain those responsible for the Ukrainian Antarctic programme. “The station is located in maritime Antarctica, on the island of Galindez, where you can observe in particular whales, seals and thousands of penguins. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 4,000 tourists visited the station during the short Antarctic summer.”

Whether these plastic penguins will ever become the desired best seller remains to be seen. (Photo: UAC)

Plastic to be given a second life as souvenirs for tourists

“Plastic has become one of the main pollutants of the world’s oceans in the 21st century; microscopic fragments of plastic packaging from Europe, Asia and America are carried by currents across the planet, clogging the stomachs of plankton even in the most pristine region – Antarctica, disrupting food chains and causing starvation in fish, whales and penguins. The station “Akademik Vernadsky” is visited by tourists from different countries, so who is better suited than us to play an educational role, explain to people the “plastic threat” and show how each of us can reduce it,” said Evgen Dykyi, director of the National Antarctic Scientific Center.

At the Vernadsky station, a closed cycle of plastics recycling was created. This mainly concerns crown corks and bottles for household chemicals. The system includes a plastic shredder, an extruder where plastic is melted, and a series of casting molds for making souvenirs.

Antarctica, formed from “colourful plastic waste” is waiting in the station for a new owner. (Photo: UAC)

It was also pointed out at the press conference that the establishment of HDPE plastics processing at the station could have a significant educational effect. A considerable number of tourists will bring souvenirs from the Ukrainian station to the whole world after the COVID-19 pandemic and the revival of tourism in Antarctica.

In general, the project to improve separate collection of plastics and recycle some of the sorted plastic directly at the station will help reduce the human footprint in the fragile Antarctic ecosystem. The aim is to improve the image of the Ukrainian station and reduce the cost of waste disposal.

Source: National Antarctic Scientific Center

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