Seeking to make up a $2.3 million shortfall in the country’s waste services operation, the Cayman Islands government will consider adding to the list of items currently subject to disposal fees when they are imported into the country.
These public health waste handling fees or ‘up front’ fees are basically charges which anticipate what it will cost to dispose of the item when it has reached the end of its useful life.
These fees are currently collected by customs for items such as vehicles, tyres and batteries. But Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean told the Legislative Assembly Wednesday that government would consider expanding the fees to other goods on a phased-in basis.
‘The current way garbage fees are collected will need to change in the future because everyone is using the services, but (some) are not paying a fair share of the costs,’ Mr. McLean said.
His comments came in response to a parliamentary question posed by George Town MLA Lucille Seymour. Ms Seymour had asked whether monies collected for solid waste disposal were sufficient to support the Department of Environmental Health’s Solid Waste operation.
Mr. McLean said between garbage fees, up front disposal fees, and other environmental and recycling fees, solid waste operations earn just over $5.65 million a year. About $7.99 million, 76 per cent of the Department of Environmental Health’s budget is spent on solid waste operations.
This leaves a shortfall of more than $2.34 million which Mr. McLean said will be made up within the core government budget.
Mr. McLean estimated the cost for household garbage collection and disposal at about $400 per year. But some properties are charged far less.
For example, he told the assembly a private house that is not frontage on a canal, the beach, or the North Sound, and is situated between the West Bay cemetery and the Wharf Restaurant pays $100 per year for trash collection.
‘It works out to 96 cents per pick up for the twice weekly collection service,’ Mr. McLean said.
The minister said he supported the up front customs fees as opposed to simply raising solid waste collection fees because they were based on a ‘user-pay’ philosophy.
‘There is no need to bill customers, nor to provide waivers to customers unable to pay,’ he said. ‘No fees will be in arrears, and this is more suitable to vacationers with homes.’
Exactly what additional goods the up front fees would be levied on isn’t known. Assistant Director of Solid Waste Sean McGinn said those details still needed to be worked out.
‘We have a whole list that we’re looking at, but I don’t want to get into the particulars of what that would include until we know,’ Mr. McGinn said.
‘We could put more classification in,’ he added, as an example. ‘If you bring a dump truck in right now, you don’t pay much more than you do for a pick-up truck. Another good example would be plastic cups. I’m not saying we’re going to but — we could charge more on a plastic cup than we would a biodegradable cup.’
Mr. McLean gave no timeline of when government would consider changing the disposal fees.