Garbage plagues Grand Cayman

George Town’s garbage landfill is filling up fast.

So fast that Communications, Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean has made it his mission to find a solution to the ever-growing garbage issue.

On Grand Cayman, the George Town dump, located very close to the city centre, has been the traditional end of the road for the Island’s solid waste.

However, members of the Finance Committee heard last week that the dump will soon be unable to meet the Island’s waste disposal needs, and that the Cayman Islands is in dire need of a modern waste management system.

Properly constructed landfills and waste-diversion practices such as recycling and composting are commonplace in most parts of the world.

Aside from capacity issues, simply dumping trash leads to harmful chemicals and toxins leaching into the surrounding soil and water, while build-ups of methane gas from decomposing organic matter cause potentially explosive situations.

‘Grand Cayman’s capital is at risk,’ Minister McLean told the committee. ‘Mount Trashmore continues to get bigger and bigger every day.’

The Minister announced that a reassessment of waste management strategies throughout the Cayman Islands was under way. This past spring the Minister attended the North American Waste and Energy Conference with senior staff, which provided them a better understanding of potential solutions.

The Ministry is looking at several waste management systems, including using some of the waste to produce energy, which would result in benefits to Cayman’s environment that would far outweigh, in the long run, the consequent increased cost of garbage disposal.

Recycling tops the list. ‘We have to be very careful what methods we choose and we have to start separating waste from trash such as glass bottles, cans and paper,’ he said

To boost recycling efforts, there are funds in the 2006/7 budget for a baler for aluminium cans, smaller metals and paper ($40,000); a paper shredder for recycling paper products ($35,000); as well as equipment for oil incinerators on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac ($12,000).

Another concern is the lack of controls over dumping.

The dump has sufficient capacity to sustain dumping practices, but the space will fill up soon.

Another problem the Government faces is that waste disposal is not profitable. While it costs the Government approximately $10 million to collect and dispose of the Isand’s garbage, the 2006/7 budget predicts garbage fees will generate only $4.1 million in revenues.

Furthermore, dumping is free and unregulated. The Minister indicated he would like to pursue the implementation of tipping fees at the dump, as the site is seeing increasing amounts garbage, especially construction and other similar waste, at the landfill.

‘The department has to find money to process that,’ he said.