Madeira, the island off Portugal, is regularly voted the best island destination in the world. Home to just a quarter of a million people, the island’s population soars each year as over one million people come from around the world to enjoy its unique mountainous geography. In doing so, they generate huge pressure on the island’s infrastructure, not least its water, sanitation and waste disposal infrastructure, most of which are catered for by A.R.M.
In 2019, the company celebrates its tenth anniversary, having been founded in 2009, after a restructuring, at a time when Portugal was undergoing one of its most difficult periods in recent history. As Portugal come out of that period even stronger, A.R.M is one of the poster children of the country’s recent recovery. There’s never a bad time to drop in on Madeira, so we decided that the 10th anniversary celebrations of A.R.M. was the only excuse required.
History and Background
The story of A.R.M. goes back to 1991, when the Institute of Water Planning was founded for the island of Madeira with the aim of planning, coordinating and managing the water infrastructure required on the island. In its first decade, the Institute made good progress in developing a set of standards for water on Madeira and putting in place everything needed to achieve that standard.
Until that time, Madeira had gotten by with a largely antiquated sanitation system, which served its purpose but needed modernizing. The Institute of Water Planning took on this task, putting in place a system for pricing water based on supply and demand and which allowed the authorities to visualize, in real time, water levels, its quality and its consumption, bringing the system to a level considered state-of-the-art for its time.
In 2000, the organization transformed into the IGA - Investimentos e Gestão da Água, SA (Water Investment and Management, Inc), with the same mandate as before but increased responsibility in the areas of drainage and urban waste water treatment. This trend of adding increased responsibilities to the mandate of the organization continued until 2009, when the firm that we now know as A.R.M was founded.
By 2014, the process of integrating various government-owned water-related subsidies on the island into A.R.M. was completed. These include the likes of IGA, IGSERV, IGH and Valor Ambiente, various legacy businesses which took care of areas such as sanitation, the environment and water management, employing a total of 700 people. From 2014 onward, everything would be managed under the name of A.R.M., which streamlined management and processes at the company to cater for the evolution. Now, everything water and waste-related would be taken care of under one umbrella.
Despite a relatively steady permanent population on the island of Madeira, its tourist population grows year on year, creating an additional strain on the water and waste infrastructure. Nevertheless, the figures which A.R.M makes public on its own performance, both in terms of drinkable water output, wastewater management and waste treatment, suggest that the company is going above and beyond its remit.
For example, in 2018, the volume of water supplied by A.R.M. to municipal reservoirs exceeded 58 million liters of clean water which would fill about 22,000 Olympic pools. In the case of Porto Santo - the smaller of Madeira’s two main islands – the output to the public remained more or less steady at 1.1 billion litres of drinkable water.
During 2018 A.R.M. received approximately 119,178 tons of municipal solid waste for incineration treatment at the Solid Waste Treatment Plant Incineration Facility, which allowed the production of 46.6 GWh of renewable electricity. Of this energy, part is used in the self-consumption of the Solid Waste Treatment Plant, while the rest, about 75%, is directed to the public distribution network, which in enouht to care for the needs of about 38,000 inhabitants, representing circa 15% of the population of the Region.
In 2018 ARM sent a total of 13,715 tons of waste (4,400 tons of paper, 5,900 tons of glass and 1,600 tons of plastic and metal, among others) for recycling or other recovery mechanisms, which represents an increase of 4,5% compared to the year 2017.
In terms of wastewater management, in the year 2018 A.R.M had, under its management, 324 km of wastewater pipes. In the island of Porto Santo, all the wastewater collected is treated and reused for the irrigation of the local golf course.
The statistics about the amount of waste sent for recycling in 2018underline the work that A.R.M. does in the environment at large. For the past few years, the company has run a campaign under the slogan, “Reciclar faz bem ao Planeta” (Recycling is good for the Environment). This promotional campaign has the objective of raising awareness for people across both islands of Madeira about the importance of disposing of waste responsibly.
This campaign may well have contributed in some part to a 5% increase in requests from residents in Madeira to collect their waste over the past 12 months. A.R.M, like many companies in its position, has committed to supplying more and more recyclable materials bins for the neighborhoods around Madeira to ensure that the message about responsible waste disposal finds its intended target.
As one might expect, on a small island on the very periphery of Europe, there aren’t many large international companies to call on. No matter - there are a host of local and national firms operating in the same space as A.R.M. - all of them private enterprises which employ locally - which it can call on to deliver its services. They include a range of engineering, consulting and environmental waste experts.
In engineering, they include NRV Madeira, Consultores de Engenharia, S. A., R. Pereira — Estudos e Projetos de Engenharia, Lda and Socicorreia — Engenharia, S. A.; Opertrans – Equipamentos, Lda and Hidromadeira — Hidráulica e Materiais de Construção, SA provide the waste disposal vehicles that A.R.M disperses around the islands.
Elsewhere. A.T.M. — Assistência Total em Manutenção, S. A. assists in the day-to-day operations of maintaining various parts of Madeira that falls on A.R.M., Lusical — Companhia Lusitana de Cal, SA and Sapec Química, S. A. provide chemicals that are uses in the operation of A.R.M. facilities, mainly its incineration, ensuring that the air and water used is returned to the environment in sustainable and healthy conditions.
A Clean Island Destination
Madeira was named the best island destination in the world in 2019 for the second year running. Many of the people that voted cited its crystal blue waters among their motives. Those crystal blue waters don’t just happen when the island is full of tourist visitors. Rather, they’re the product of lots of hard work behind the scenes in cleaning, sanitation, waste disposal and environmental protection - all the tasks of A.R.M - which has been keeping Madeira clean for a decade now. Here’s to many more years with them working behind the scenes.