The growing problem of Mount Trashmore

Sitting, bewigged and formal, in the Speaker’s Chair of the Legislative Assembly in mid-March, young Diana Tibbetts in her role as teen Speaker in Youth Parliament left no-one in any doubt that Cayman’s growing landfill concerns both the young and the old in this Island.

Ms Tibbetts told the assembled press, spectators and elected and teen members of the House: “Our beautiful environment [is] being destroyed by the landfill, which most Caymanians know as Mount Trashmore. This is a huge problem that we have ignored for long enough. If this situation is not addressed, it will affect the children of the future.”

The leaching of the landfill into the North Sound and potential for that to spread to the Seven Mile Beach area is of major concern to the youth of the Island, she said, adding: “Cayman, the youth wants you to know that we need to all come together and contribute different ideas to find a solution for this growing situation, to make Cayman’s environment a safer place for the generations to come.”

The problem of Mount Trashmore has seemed insurmountable, but with some new deals in the pipeline and the community, including the Island’s young people like Ms Tibbetts, demanding and seeking solutions, Cayman seems as close as it’s ever been to dealing with the giant mount of garbage in its backyard. The dump receives between 320 to 350 tonnes of waste a day, and on an island with almost no recycling, the mound continues to rise unabated.

In January, Premier McKeeva Bush announced a plan to clean up the George Town Landfill that included creating a new solid waste management facility at another location on Grand Cayman.

He revealed that Dart Enterprises would take over Mount Trashmore, and cap and remediate it, and also provide a site of similar acreage on which the new waste management facility would be built. The current site is 68 acres, although Dart Realty CEO Mark VanDevelde has said that an ideal site size for the new facility would be around 110 to 115 acres. “With our encouragement, Dart [Enterprises] has agreed to take over and responsibly cap and remediate the existing site,” Bush said when making the announcement.

Dart has identified a number of sites – in Bodden Town, North Side and East End that would be suitable for the new site, VanDevelde said.

One potential site, already owned by the Dart Group, is north of Northward Prison in Bodden Town. This site was offered to the previous government administration in exchange for the George Town Landfill site, but the offer was objected. VanDevelde said this site was one of many that could be used. “We will ensure that any landfill component at this new site will be engineered with the proper linings, collection systems and technology to ensure that it is environmentally responsible,” Bush said.

This announcement came a few weeks after a US waste management company, Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., was awarded a contract to manage, own and operate a waste management facility for Cayman. Of 10 companies that were shortlisted, Wheelabrator submitted the winning bid to the Central Tenders Committee in response to a request for proposals that had invited submissions to provide a comprehensive solid waste disposal management facility and waste-to-energy facility, as well as measures to enable recycling and to produce green by-products, such as biofuels and composting.

Wheelabrator is a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., the biggest garbage collection company in the US.
Companies that submitted bids were also required to provide waste disposal management options for the Sister Islands.

In addition to providing the property for the new facility, Dart would provide the basic land infrastructure, including a properly engineered, lined landfill component with management for things like leachate and methane gas.

Other elements of the solid waste operation, such as waste-to-energy and recycling would not fall under Dart’s remit.

What is now Mount Trashmore may end up becoming a commercial development; an extension of the Camana Bay nursery; and/or public space that would include sports and recreation facilities and trails for biking, jogging and walking, according to Dart officials.

But, none of this will happen overnight. VanDevelde has said it will be at least 18-24 months before capping of the current dump can begin. “Until the new site is ready to accept refuse, you can’t turn the existing site off,” he said.

The government, Dart and Wheelabrator have been in talks throughout March to move to the next phase of the arrangements.

Wheelabrator pioneered the waste-to-energy industry in the United States when it designed, built and operated the first commercially successful facility in Saugus, Massachusetts, in 1975.
Wheelabrator converts trash to steam and electricity while controlling emissions.

Waste-to-energy is a clean, renewable, efficient and economical form of energy production and post-recycled waste disposal. Waste-to-energy facilities use solid waste as a fuel to generate renewable energy in almost the same way that traditional power plants produce electricity.

Part of Wheelabrator’s remit under the contract will be to enable recycling on Grand Cayman.
There are already sites on Grand Cayman to dump aluminium cans, which are taken to the landfill, crushed and packed, awaiting shipment to a recycling facility, most likely in the United States.

Efforts have also been made by supermarkets and some retailers to reduce the consumption of plastic bags on Grand Cayman by offering reusable shopping bags.

A mandatory recycling programme – if Government chooses to enact one – would probably involve homeowners and businesses separating plastic, glass, paper and cardboard from their trash and putting those items in specific bins for collection.

The recycled goods would then be shipped off-island and sold.

Some companies in the Cayman Islands such as Cayman Islands Brewery, WestStar TV, the Dart Group, Kirk Office Equipment, Advantage Graphic Design and dms Broadcasting already have recycling programmes in place.