As far as I am aware, none of the people who suggest the wheelie bins as an obvious disposal method had checked out what happens with the waste at the landfill site. What happens at the landfill site is something of a revelation.
In 1997, the EU mandated that solid waste around Europe had to be managed in a smarter way.
Recycling had to be increased. This was to increase the re-use of old material, decrease the need for new material and cut the amount of landfill required. Hence the Algarve solution of green wheelie bins was augmented with the 3-brown-bell recycling system, and the 4-underground-chamber system.
Toxic material in landfill had to be cut. The Algarve has eco-centres where people can dump toxic rubbish, but people being people, most of this probably goes into the general rubbish bins, thus the landfill site has to strip these out. These toxic materials include circuit boards (TVs, radios, computers, printers, phones etc.). batteries, solvents, medicines, paint, engine oil and the such like.
Material that could be composted was to be separated out and turned into compost. This separation is at the landfill site, as not even the 4-underground-chamber system sorts this out at the front end.
Organic waste going into landfill was to be cut. This organic material degenerates producing methane, and methane is one of the most potent gases contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming.
Portugal’s progress on the directive was examined and document by the EU, and a public report looks at how Portugal, and each of its regions fared. This includes how well or otherwise the Algarve was doing in 2007.
Portugal split the Algarve into two with respect to waste management – Barlavento and Sotavento. These are sailing terms. Barlavento means upwind or windward, where the wind is coming from, and is the western half of the Algarve, covering Sagres, Luz, Lagos, Portimão and Albufeira. Sotavento is leeward or downwind, and is the eastern half running to the border with Spain.
In 2007, Sotavento lagged, and its facilities were slowly coming on-stream. Barlavento was leading, with its systems in place for years.
Landfill in both halves is run by Algar, a joint central/local initiative, and there was to be just one landfill site in each half.
In Barlavento, the site was/is at Porto de Lagos, which, despite its name, is a few miles north of Portimão. All the waste goes there, and the general waste is picked over by teams to extract recyclables, to extract toxic materials, to extract material for composting, to extract as much organic material as possible, and the remainder goes into landfill.
The Barlavento site was inspected in February 2005, and every aspect was in full swing.
The following graphic comes from the Facebook site associated with that visit, and it illustrates what happened to the organic material extracted. It was turned into gas, and just north of the landfill site is a power station that uses this gas to generate electricity.
The record for this power station is also on-line, and in 2007, it was running at very close to 100% of its annual capacity of 5,000MWhours.
Therefore Barlavento was picking through the general waste in some considerable detail at the time Madeleine disappeared. The chances of getting a human body of Madeleine’s height and weight past such a check are minuscule.
There is a further twist to the Barlavento tale – the white stork.
White storks, along with gulls, visited Barlavento landfill in great numbers, seeing it as an easy food source. The white storks (not the gulls) were being studied by universities in Portugal and in the UK, as well as being a favourite spot for bird-watchers.
Studies were in place in 2007 to check the migration patterns of the storks. Previously, most had migrated to north Africa for, with only around 1,000 remaining in Iberia. By 2008, the number over-wintering in Iberia had risen to over 10,000.
Storks would be ringed and some would have radio trackers fitted. And the watchers would come to Barlavento to check on the storks, using high-magnification binoculars to see how many birds had rings and even what colour those rings were.
I do not have concrete evidence that there were watchers at Barlavento in May 2007, though I have seen a watcher on site a little later, and the tracking sites thank Algar/Barlavento for allowing them access.
White storks mate in March/April, and the eggs are incubated for 5 weeks. Therefore, around late April to May the chicks hatch and the demand for food increases. The graphic shows how crowded these sites become.
The locals in Luz remain convinced that is was easy to dispose of Madeleine via the wheelie bins in May 2007. That means they are unaware of what happens at the Barlavento landfill site. Thus any perpetrator disposing of Madeleine should be equally ignorant.
Since Madeleine was not found when the waste was being sorted in May 2007, the evidence is overwhelming that her final fate was not disposal in a wheelie bin.
Finally, note the difference with Gonçalo Amaral´s dead Shitzu. That would have either been considered organic material suitable for gas and electricity, or it would have been rejected and ended up in the landfill, fodder for the gulls and the storks.
The defence rests.