Sustainable answer to waste

Why are we building another landfill site in Cayman? This is a crazy idea, especially as it is it is miles from the source of the waste. This is a really daft idea because we don’t want to create another pile of garbage for our future generations to have to deal with. Image if your forefathers had done the same to you then we would not of Cayman have the success we have today.

As the rest of the world deals with the one of the sources of climate change by recycling and processing its waste to recover energy and by-products to use for something else; Cayman goes for the cheap quick fix, which will cost a fortune in the long term.

Positioning of waste facilities is usually done close to the source of the waste, as the cost of collection; i.e. the cost of the truck driving from household to tip and back again is the expensive recurrent cost due to diesel costs. These trucks do around seven miles to the gallon. So to drive 20 miles empty going from tip to West Bay and George Town to most heavy populated areas is going to be expensive over the life of the tip; is Dart paying for that? Probably not. The other additional cost is the wear and tear on the roads to waste facility or cost to build new roads to avoid tourism accidents, which cost the country in other ways.

Secondly is how we deal with the waste if landfill is not an option. This is easy. We have a sorting station that recovers waste metal, plastic, organic waste and streams them to a processing point. We have two collections per week from households at extra cost. We could convert one of these to collecting recyclables, which can be processed to either break even or make a profit and, more importantly, to be added to the landfill.

Combined with education to the public to compost their own organic waste from kitchen and gardens to remove this from the waste stream and create fertile soil in their garden instead of using chemicals, which build up in the soil and reap untold damage to your future generations, this also saves both the consumer and government money; reducing our debts.

Educate the public to recycle disposable products to get more life out of them and only dispose of them when they are wore out instead of the moment you have finished with them, thus saving money for the household as well as reducing waste to process.

The vastly reduced waste stream can be processed either by being burnt and producing power and 4 per cent ash for fill or using anaerobic digestion plants to produce gas (and in turn power) and low grade fertiliser to improve the ground conditions in Cayman to produce more locally grown food, thus allowing future generations of Caymanians to have a real economic stake in their own country.

Food waste now accounts for 50 per cent of the planet’s waste and as this is an expensive commodity in Cayman as it is mostly imported, by improving Cayman’s soil then higher yields can be grown locally and allow employment growth for Cayman’s youth to enlarge the already active farming community.

The added benefit of anaerobic digestion plants over incinerators is that they are modular and so can be expanded with real growth instead of predicted growth thus costing less to start with.

Waste management should be done on a local scale and not a centralised one as this allows population centres to process their own waste and be responsible for their lifestyle instead of not caring as it is taken away and dealt with by unseen others. So if the dump is moved, it should be divided down into small units in West Bay, George Town, Bodden Town and East End or North Side.

As for the Mount Trashmore facility, it should have many more years in it now the scrap metal is removed. It already has a recycling centre there as, I was the engineer of record, who signed off the buildings some years ago. So let Dart cap the existing landfill and remediate it to improve his property and instead of moving, build on the adjacent free government land (where the waste metal was stored), a state of the art – anaerobic digestion plant and /or incinerator, which does not smell, and could cope with the waste after recycling without destroying any more of Cayman’s environment and save some money for once.

Whilst Cayman may not contribute much to climate change as a low lying island, it will be affected dramatically by it in the future from both increased probability of extreme weather events but also by raising sea levels up to 2’-8’ in the next hundred years and so everyone on this Island should lead a sustainable lifestyle as an example of how a country should act to show the rest of the world it can be done both at individual and government levels before it is too late for our next generation as well as us.

Waste management is an important statement of how we live our lives, especially as we are a tourist island and many visitors from around the planet are exposed to how we behave environmentally. This decision may be for tourists and investors the choice between visiting the Cayman Islands and going somewhere else to spend their money.

Sam Small