Recycling can help Cayman’s trash pile

As Grand Cayman’s Mount Trashmore continues to grow, a number of options have been raised to deal with the Island’s increasing amounts of garbage.

First on the Communications Works and Infrastructure Minister’s list is getting a system in place to start separating garbage in to recyclables and non-recyclables.

Tossing cans, bottles and paper products into a second bin is a simple task, while the benefits of recycling are well documented.

For example, 95 per cent less energy is used to make new aluminium cans out of old ones. Throwing away a single aluminium can is like pouring out six ounces of gasoline.

While running a recycling program can run up significant costs in some jurisdictions, it will not be an issue in Grand Cayman as drop-off bins and a can baler are incorporated into the new budget.

If the system is to be expanded eventually, the issue of keeping costs down is being addressed. In its Collection Efficiency Study, the US Environmental Protection Agency outlines the best ways to make recycling cost-effective.

It’s worth it. The US National Recycling Council reports that two years after calling recycling a $40 million drain on the city, New York City leaders realized that a redesigned, efficient recycling system could actually save the city $20 million and they have now signed a 20-year recycling contract.

The NRC also reports that recycling creates 1.1 million U.S. jobs, $236 billion in gross annual sales and $37 billion in annual payrolls.

While initial start-up may be a challenge, results can be significant. In 2004, 36 per cent of Toronto’s residential waste or 311,558 tonnes of garbage was diverted, and the city is well on its way to achieving a 60 per cent diversion rate by 2008.

Sean McGinn, Grand Cayman’s solid waste chief, is a civil engineer from Canada who has worked for regional governments in mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island in Canada setting up their recycling programs.

He says the first thing that Caymanians need to get used to is practicing separating their cans, glass, plastic and paper. A public education program set to start soon will spread the word.

Mr. McGinn hopes to have public bins in a variety of locations across the Island by July and August, where residents can drop off their recyclables. These items can also be dropped off at the George Town landfill.

The landfill’s new aluminium can baler is expected to arrive by July, and the recycling centre will be under construction throughout the summer as well.

At the moment, the landfill receives an average of 448 tons of waste a day.

This includes:

  • 200 tons commercial & residential collections
  • 45 per cent of that is garbage
  • 23 per cent is Construction and demolition
  • 11 per cent is yard waste and
  • 21 per cent is bulk waste (couches etc)

Mr. McGinn is hopeful recycling will be a success as Caymanians are producing record amounts of garbage that will soon overwhelm current waste management capabilities.

‘What Caymanians need to realize is that 42,000 people are producing four tons of garbage a day. Compare this with the North American average of 2.2 tons a day. Something’s got to change: a successful recycling program will greatly reduce that amount.’

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